The Carolina Panthers’ search for new members of their coaching staff for the 2019 season has begun in earnest. On Wednesday, the team reportedly interviewed longtime NFL defensive backs coach Perry Fewell for such a role. And now, it appears that the Panthers are giving one big name coaching candidate the opportunity to sit down and make his case for joining the staff.
According to a report by Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk, the Panthers are spending their Thursday interviewing Chuck Pagano, who has nearly two decades of NFL experience. Pagano had most-recently served as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, who he coached to three playoff victories in a tenure that lasted from 2012 until 2017. Prior to that, he had served primarily as a defensive backs coach before becoming defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. It is unclear as to whether or not Pagano is interviewing for the defensive backs coaching position or another role on the coaching staff.
Part of the ambiguity of exactly where Pagano could fall on the coaching staff lies with the fact that head coach Ron Rivera will be more hands-on with the Panthers’ defense in 2019. Gantt re-affirms earlier reports that Rivera will handle defensive playcalling in 2019, while 2018 defensive coordinator Eric Washington will remain with the team in a reduced role.
Given his track record, Pagano would most certainly be a valuable addition to a coaching staff that will likely be tasked with developing a defense that is dramatically younger than in years’ past. In 2018, the age of the Panthers’ defense caught up with them, contributing to the fall of the defense from one of the best in the NFL to a middle-of-the-road unit that habitually gave up big plays when it mattered and struggled to affect opposing quarterbacks. The Panthers made their first move towards making their defense younger earlier this week, as they informed longtime linebacker Thomas Davis that they will not offer him a new contract. The Panthers also have several other big decisions to make on veterans long in the tooth, such as defensive end Julius Peppers and safety Mike Adams.
The Carolinas are hardly unchartered territory for Pagano, as he has held rank on some of the regions’ most-significant collegiate programs. Pagano served as the defensive backs coach of the East Carolina Pirates in 1989, and returned to the program in 1992 to serve in both that role and as a linebackers coach. After leaving East Carolina following the 1994 season, Pagano would return to the region in 2007 to serve as defensive coordinator of the UNC Tar Heels. One of Pagano’s players was Da’Norris Searcy – Now a safety for the Panthers.
Pagano originally entered the NFL in 2001, serving as a secondary coach for the Cleveland Browns for four seasons. In addition to his tenures with the Ravens and Colts, he has also coached for the Oakland Raiders.