Broncos officially name John Pagano as outside linebackers coach

Houston Texans linebackers coach John Pagano (middle) looks on against the Los Angeles Chargers at Dignity Health Sports Park. Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Courtesy of Denver Broncos Communications

The Denver Broncos have named John Pagano as outside linebackers coach, Head Coach Vic Fangio announced on Thursday.

Pagano is a 31-year coaching veteran with 24 years of NFL experience, including the last 15 seasons as a defensive coordinator or linebackers coach. He joins the Broncos after spending the last two seasons as senior defensive assistant/outside linebackers coach for Houston, where he was part of the teams’ back-to-back AFC South Division titles.

During his career, Pagano has coached several prominent pass rushers, including Pro Bowlers Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips.

While Pagano coached for the Texans, Clowney was chosen to his third consecutive Pro Bowl in 2018. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus was one of two players to record at least seven sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles (T.J. Watt, Pit.) in 2019.

Pagano spent the 2017 season as the Raiders’ assistant head coach–defense. He took over defensive playcalling duties in Week 12, helping the Raiders’ pass rush record the seventh-most sacks (17) in the NFL in the final six games of the season after ranking last in the league in sacks (14) through the first 10 games.

Before joining Oakland, Pagano spent 15 seasons (2002-16) in various defensive coaching positions with the San Diego Chargers and was a part of six playoff teams. His tenure with the Chargers included five seasons (2012-16) as the team’s defensive coordinator, helping San Diego score the fifth-most defensive touchdowns (17) in the NFL during that span.

With Pagano as his position coach, Merriman was selected as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2005 before leading the league with 17 sacks in 12 games played in 2006. Phillips also enjoyed success working with Pagano, earning a Pro Bowl nod in 2010 and recording at least seven sacks in six consecutive seasons (2005-10).

Before his stint with the Chargers, Pagano spent four years as a defensive assistant in Indianapolis (1998-2001), including three seasons with Fangio on staff as the defensive coordinator. He got his NFL start in the same role with New Orleans in 1996 following seven seasons as a college assistant (Mesa State, 1989; UNLV, 1990-91; Louisiana Tech, 1994; Ole Miss, 1995) and high school coach (Overland High School, Aurora, Colo., 1992-93).

A Boulder, Colo., native, Pagano was an all-state linebacker at Fairview High School before playing collegiately at Colorado Mesa University (1985-88). His father, Sam Pagano, was a legendary high school coach at Fairview and a Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductee. His brother, Chuck Pagano, is currently the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears.

John Pagano was born on March 30, 1967, in Boulder, Colo.

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