After spending half of a season as an assistant head coach/defense in Oakland, John Pagano was "promoted" this week to defensive coordinator after the Raiders fired Ken Norton Jr.
A longtime defensive coordinator for the then-San Diego Chargers, Pagano will be charged with accomplishing the improbable, if not the impossible, in the final six weeks of the season in East Bay: Giving Oakland's porous defense a face lift, a makeover and a 180 in time for the playoffs.
In his first meeting with the Bay Area media Thursday, the coach of nearly three decades was confident that the Raiders could pull it off.
"There's always room for change and there's always room for doing things better," Pagano said Thursday. "Without telling you our game plan, it's about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line."
As have critical fans and members of the football cognoscenti, Pagano has targeted what areas need improving. The Raiders need more takeaways -- they're the only team in football with a single interception this season and rank last with six turnovers. Coach Jack Del Rio was upset that the Raiders weren't playing fast or getting to the quarterback. Oakland has to capitalize on missed opportunities, too.
The fix is three-fold, according to Pagano. The Raiders must focus on the basics: "Technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort."
"I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better," Pagano said. "What is simple? It's fundamentals of covering. It's tackling. It's communicating. It's catching the ball when it comes. We've had opportunities. It's not like we're out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It's hit us in the hands where we've had many, many opportunities."
So can the Raiders K.I.S.S. and make up ground in the AFC West and/or the AFC playoff picture? Oakland is currently 4-6, but is just one game behind the sixth-seeded Ravens, two games behind the AFC West-leading Chiefs and tied in the loss column with the charging Chargers. The Raiders have two winnable home games upcoming against the Broncos, with Paxton Lynch under center, and the foundering Giants.