New Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is targeting John Pagano as his defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday.
Pagano spent the 2012 season as the defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers. He coached linebackers during Chudzinski’s two stints with the Chargers.
Chudzinski was a tight ends coach (2005-06) and an assistant head coach/tight ends coach (2009-10) in San Diego. He was also the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers during the past two seasons.
Pagano had never served as a defensive coordinator before last year. The Chargers ranked ninth with 326.4 yards allowed per game and 16th with 21.9 points allowed per game in 2012.
On Friday, Chudzinski and CEO Joe Banner indicated they like hybrid defenses that use 3-4 and 4-3 alignments. But each of them said the defensive coordinator they bring to Cleveland would ultimately decide the type of scheme the Browns will use. The Browns have employed a 4-3 system for the past two seasons under defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who is not expected to return.
Pagano ran a 3-4 base defense in San Diego, but the Chargers also used multiple looks out of it. Outside linebackers would often move up to the line of scrimmage and get into three-point stances to create a four-man front. In other words, Pagano showed the type of hybrid philosophy Chudzinski and Banner spoke about.
The Kansas City Chiefs also targeted Pagano, though the Chargers have yet to let him out of his deal, according to the report. Pagano, 45, is the younger brother of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is another candidate to lead the Browns’ defense. Tucker, though, is reportedly scheduled to interview for the Jaguars’ coaching position Monday, the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche reported.
Like John Pagano, Tucker has previously worked with Chudzinski. Tucker coached the defensive backs for the Browns from 2005-07 before being promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2008 season. In his second of three tours with the Browns, Chudzinski served as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2007-08.
Tucker has been the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator for the past four seasons and has used 4-3 and 3-4 systems during his career. During his tenure with the Jaguars, their defense has ranked 30th in 2012 (380.5 yards allowed per game), sixth in 2011 (313.0), 28th in 2010 (371.8) and 23rd in 2009 (352.3).
If Chudzinski hires Pagano, he won’t be the only one leaving San Diego for Cleveland. Norv Turner, who was fired Dec. 31 after spending six seasons as the Chargers’ coach, is expected to become the Browns’ offensive coordinator.
Chudzinski and Turner are close from their days together with the Chargers. Chudzinski said Friday during his introductory news conference the opportunity to work with Turner, who has 15 years of NFL head-coaching experience, in San Diego and watch how he handled business helped him improve as a coach.
“Having the assistant head coach experience where I spent all the time with Norv and saw all the things he had to do, I think that just overall, as time has gone on, I’ve had the experiences to see and been around the people who have given me the opportunities to see what it takes to be a great head coach,” said Chudzinski, who has never been a head coach before at any level. “Hopefully, I can put all those things together and get that done.”
Another reason Turner is expected to join Chudzinski’s staff is because his son figures to end up in Cleveland, too. Scott Turner was Chudzinski’s right-hand man during his time with the Panthers, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The younger Turner served as the Panthers’ offensive quality control coach and sat next to Chudzinski in the coaches’ box during games. Scott Turner could become the Browns’ quarterbacks coach, considering he played the position at UNLV.
Former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt appeared to be a favorite to become the Browns’ coach Thursday afternoon, when news of his second interview with Banner and owner Jimmy Haslam surfaced. The Browns, though, hired Chudzinski on Thursday night.
The Browns were high on Whisenhunt as their next coach, but he and Banner could not reach an agreement on how much say the front office would have in rounding out the coaching staff, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported.
Banner was asked Friday whether Chudzinski would have final say on the hiring of his coaching staff.
“Everything’s always subject to our approval,” Banner said. “But he’s going to have whoever he chooses to have on his coaching staff.”
Banner, who will oversee football operations for the Browns, was more comfortable choosing a first-time coach than Whisenhunt, La Canfora reported. Chudzinski’s relationship with Norv Turner also was vital to the Browns’ decision to hire him, according to the report.
Two players honored
Offensive left tackle Joe Thomas and kicker Phil Dawson were named second-team All Pro on Saturday. The Associated Press All-Pro team is selected by a 50-member nationwide panel of media members.
Houston Texas tackle Duane Brown, Denver Broncos tackle Ryan Clady and Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh made the first team.
Thomas is on the All-Pro team for the fifth time in his six NFL seasons. Dawson made it for the first time. Last month, Thomas was voted to his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl. Dawson, whose contract is scheduled to expire in March, made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 14-year career.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.