Bolts' Pagano has help in first stint as coordinator written by Kevin Acee It’s all well and good to have been on the sideline and in the coaches' box actively engaged in a supporting role for a couple hundred games. It’s beneficial to have prepared for more than a decade by literally making notebooks of the good and bad gleaned working under five different defensive coordinators. It’s definitely a plus to have been able to brainstorm with your brother, a former defensive coordinator who is now head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. But those things can only prepare you so much. The transition John Pagano is making from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator is like stepping off the firing range and into a firefight. The pressure is real, the bullets are coming back at him now, the consequences are dire. “As a position coach, you’re always right there,” Joe Barry said. “But as a coordinator, it’s the end-all.” To that end, it wasn’t necessarily on purpose but it wasn’t by accident either that the Chargers this offseason hired two assistants who have previously been NFL defensive coordinators. “It was an opportunity,” Norv Turner said of the addition of Barry as linebackers coach and Ron Meeks as defensive backs coach. “I wanted to get experienced guys and guys John is comfortable with … They’re guys who understand the big picture.” This is not to suggest that Barry and Meeks are here to hold Pagano’s hand. Not at all. Consider them here more to walk alongside him. More a bonus than a necessity. Turner and general manager A.J. Smith last year fell for the allure of Greg Manusky's experience when choosing him to be the Chargers defensive coordinator in 2011. For the record, I did as well. Mea culpa. During the time leading up to that hiring, I spoke with a number of linebackers who played for Manusky when he was here as a position coach from 2002-06, and they all endorsed him. But they all said to a man, too, that the Chargers couldn’t go wrong with Pagano, who has been on the Chargers staff since 2002. Pagano was ready. The Chargers went with Manusky, and they went wrong. Everyone knew it by November. Pagano should have been elevated to DC a year ago, I can say with certainty now that I have the special hindsight glasses bestowed to me on the day I became a columnist. But with fearless foresight, too, I pronounce that Pagano is going to do well as Chargers defensive coordinator. (All he has to do, really, is figure out a way for the Chargers to improve their third down defense, which in 2011 was statistically the worst the NFL has seen in a decade.) Pagano was not appointed coordinator on the same day Manusky was fired simply for expediency’s sake. Pagano has spent several years preparing for this, and the Chargers brass figured that day coming eventually. In fact, they didn’t allow him to leave to be defensive coordinator under Wade Phillips in Dallas in 2007 because they thought so highly of him then. Still, Pagano is new to this role. Barry and Meeks will assist in his matriculation. The Chargers, actually, had previously tried to hire both Barry and Meeks. It didn’t work out until this year. Turns out, that’s good timing. “I take all the input,” Pagano said. “They both bring a wealth of knowledge … It’s a good change to get the different philosophies and styles. Any time we’re in a meeting, I always want to understand what their philosophy was, how they did things. They’ve won a lot of games as coaches and coordinators.” Meeks spent seven seasons (2002-08) as the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts and two more (’09-10) running the Carolina Panthers’ defense . Barry was the Detroit Lions’ coordinator in 2007 and ‘08. Meeks has been in the NFL for 20 years. Barry has a decade of NFL experience. “John was a guy you looked at like, ‘When is that guy going to get a shot?’ “ Barry said. “When you’re a position coach in this league you know who the other guys are. Clearly, John is worthy of being a coordinator. I was pumped he got his chance … Whatever kind of wisdom or whatever Ron and I can offer John -- we’ve been through it, we’ve done it.” Meeks’ advice, offered in the form of knowledge gained through experience: “A coordinator is not any better than the people he works with.” Pagano seems ready to use his staff the way he was used, as a support and source of knowledge. He was instrumental in helping Ron Rivera make the transition to being coordinator of a 3-4 defense between 2008 and ’09. Of course, Pagano was frustrated he got passed over and held back. But he took the opportunities to become more prepared for this chance and says now, “I wouldn’t be here” without having learned under those coordinators. Even Ted Cottrell. “It’s made me grow,” Pagano said. Now he’s the boss. Thanks in part to his staff, it says here that he’ll be a good one.