Greg Papa says John Pagano is going to run the Raiders defense, but is he?

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 08: Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) and defensive teammates in the first half of a Thursday night AFC West showdown between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs on December 08, 2020 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)

It’s like the Oakland Raiders version of Who’s the Boss? Jack Del Rio is Tony Danza, trying to wrangle the two kids he is charged with watching with Ken Norton, Jr. as Alyssa Milano and John Pagano as Danny Pintauro.

So yeah, I guess that makes Mark Davis, Judith Light…

Earlier this week it was announced that the Oakland Raiders have hired formed Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano as their Assistant Head Coach, Defense. That title confuse you? Yeah, us too.

When wrote about the implications of the Pagano hire for Ken Norton, Jr., it was under the assumption that Pagano was brought in to help Norton improve, not take over.

As it turns out, Raiders play by play man Greg Papa assumes differently. This is what he had to say on his 95.7 The Game mid day show:

On defensive side,  I think this is John Pagano’s deal. They’re going to respect Ken Norton but let’s make this clear, they did not bring John Pagano in to not run the defense. He’s going to run the defense.

Obviously, Papa knows a whole lot about the Raiders, more than any of us will ever know. But he doesn’t know everything that goes on, nor does he share everything he knows. He appeared to feel very strongly that Pagano would run the defense, but if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be the first time that the Raiders did something that Papa thought they wouldn’t.

Clearly his is an opinion that should be respected, but until we hear from Jack Del Rio (we won’t) or see a defense that is clearly Pagano’s and not Norton’s, we won’t know the true dynamic of the defensive coaching staff.

I understand Papa’s logic and hope he’s right. As many know, I’ve wanted the Raiders to move on from Ken Norton, Jr. since about midseason. And while I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Pagano, I would certainly take him over Norton.

The problem I have with Papa’s opinion is this: Why is Ken Norton, Jr. still here?

If Jack Del Rio and the Raiders are really ready to move on from him and let Pagano run the defense, why haven’t they moved on from him and why isn’t John Pagano the defensive coordinator?

There are a lot of potential answers to those questions, but the more I think about it, the more I come back to the same answer: Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton, Jr. are close and Del Rio wants to give Norton a chance to succeed. Papa seemed to think that it was about Del Rio not wanting to embarrass Norton but I think it goes further than that. Del Rio and Norton have known each other since the early 90’s when they were on the Cowboys together. And according to Norton, they are old friends who kept in touch after playing together and often talked about the prospect of working together in the future.

I think this is about more than just trying to soften the blow for Norton, I think it’s about Jack Del Rio truly wanting his friend of 25 years to succeed.

Especially when you consider the fact that having Pagano lead the defense wouldn’t soften the blow a whole lot. It would probably be rather embarrassing going in front of the team every day, knowing that they know you aren’t really in charge anymore. Norton is a proud man and I have a hard time believing he would prefer that situation to simply being fired.

But, as I noted at the top, we won’t truly know what Pagano’s role is for a while, and for that matter, might never truly know the details of the power structure between he and Ken Norton, Jr.

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