Here at Bolts from the Blue, the staff and the community have done plenty of bashing of John Pagano. He deserves a lot of it.
After a poor start to 2012, his team finished strong on the back of strong performances by Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes. In 2013, he completely misused both of those players. The team finished with the lowest Defensive DVOA in the league (12.6%). So, obviously, we groaned when it was announced he'd be back for next season.
I'm here to tell you that Pagano deserves this chance. No, not because he didn't have any talent in the defensive backfield, although he didn't. Also not because he didn't really have a nose tackle and both of his inside linebackers played injured (or not at all) all season long, but that didn't help either. It's not even because his best option at Strong Safety was an undrafted rookie.
No, no, the reason Pagano deserves a second chance is that he proved that he could do it when he did have enough talent, and the amount of talent he needs isn't much.
In the first 12 games of the season, the Chargers balanced on a fine line. The offense was averaging 23.25 points per game, and the defense was averaging 23.08 points allowed per game. It's no wonder why the team was 5-7 at that point.
With four weeks of the season left, the Chargers couldn't stop the run, couldn't rush the passer, and barely challenge passes thrown into their defensive backfield. Then, the universe and medical science gifted John Pagano with a healthy(ish) Melvin Ingram.
In 6 games, Ingram collected just 1 sack and 1 interception. However, he consistently won his one-on-one matchups and chased QBs around until teams started doubling him, which freed up plenty of space for other guys to make plays.
In the final 6 games of the season, their offense averaged 26.8 points per game, and the defense allowed just 17.5 points per game. Both of those make sense, and while the offense and Ryan Mathews deserve credit for some of it, Melvin Ingram and John Pagano deserve just as much. The team went 5-1 in those 6 games.
"Pass rush fixes everything" is a common saying around the NFL. It's not entirely true, but there's some truth to it. What it actually says is that improving one part of your defense improves other parts as well. Improving the pass rush makes the secondary better. Improving the defensive line makes the linebackers better. You get the idea.
Melvin Ingram was drafted high in the first round because he is versatile. Sure, he has the potential to be a truly great pass rusher, but he is also good in coverage and great at stopping the run. When he steps on the field, he makes it easier for the secondary, the defensive line, and the other linebackers. It's not just "pass rush fixes everything", it's SUPERMELVIN fixes everything.
While the decision may have been made before those 6 games, I believe those 6 games stand as the best reason for giving John Pagano another year. Chances are, Ingram is going to be healthier this year than he was last year. The defensive coordinator with the terrible statistics tied to his name deserves a chance to show how well he can scheme to win when he has an actual monster on the field.