OWINGS MILLS — The Baltimore Ravens acted swiftly Tuesday night to replace departing defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, hiring secondary coach Chuck Pagano as his replacement.
Mattison returned to the college game, taking over the University of Michigan defensive coordinator post under new coach Brady Hoke.
“We’re excited for our defense and for Chuck, and we’re happy for Greg Mattison,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
After coaching the secondary for the past three seasons, Pagano will be introduced as the new defensive boss at a press conference today at the Ravens’ training complex.
A former University of North Carolina defensive coordinator, Pagano has a reputation as an aggressive defensive coach.
He has previous stints as a secondary coach with the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns, coaching Pro Bowl free safety Ed Reed at the University of Miami.
Cornerback Fabian Washington played for Pagano in both Oakland and Baltimore.
“Coach Pagano is probably the best secondary coach I’ve ever had," Washington told Ravens24x7 in a telephone interview. "He has a great formula. You can bank on it that it’s going to work. He can pick apart another team’s offense. He was our third-down guy. He came up with all that stuff. He would say, ‘They’re going to run this on third down,’ and you could bet your bottom dollar that’s what it would be.
"I just texted him and told him I was happy for him. It’s way past overdue. He should have been a defensive coordinator already in the NFL. Chuck is one of the best coaches in the league, period. I promise you’ll see that next year, whatever scheme the Ravens run. I’m pretty positive it will be pretty much the same thing, but he will definitely put his twist on it.”
After taking over at North Carolina, Pagano led the Tar Heels’ improvement from 92nd in total defense before he got there to 35th in the NCAA in his lone season in Chapel Hill.
Pagano, 50, becomes the fifth defensive coordinator in franchise history.
He has previously been a defensive coordinator at UNLV.
The Ravens’ secondary allowed 224.9 yards per contest last season, ranking 21st in pass defense and 10th in total defense.
“Chuck’s completely, in my view, a great coach and deserves it," cornerback Josh Wilson said. "He knows what he’s doing. Chuck is going to be a great defensive coordinator. It’s not going to be any kind of, ‘Can he get the job done?’ Everybody knows he can handle it. It’s going to be like nothing ever changed.”
Mattison ran the Ravens’ defense for the past two seasons, replacing Rex Ryan when he went to the New York Jets. The Ravens ranked in the top 10 in total defense both seasons.
Mattison worked with Hoke for Jack Harbaugh, John Harbaugh’s father, at Western Michigan and at Michigan under Lloyd Carr.
Mattison’s daughter, Lisa, lives in Ann Arbor. Mattison is a former defensive coordinator at Florida, Notre Dame and Western Michigan.
“I think both of them will do a lot of good," Washington said. "It’s a good move for both of them, and for both football teams."
NOTES: After promoting offensive coordinator and former Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson to head coach, the Oakland Raiders are eyeing Ravens senior offensive assistant Al Saunders as a strong candidate for their offensive coordinator vacancy.
Saunders worked as a consultant for the Ravens for the last two years. He’s a former San Diego Chargers head coach and was an offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams and was a Washington Redskins associate head coach/offense. …
Other Ravens assistants that could be on the Raiders’ radar: running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery and tight ends coach Wade Harman.
There are conflicting reports out of Cleveland on whether Ravens quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn is under consideration for the Browns’ offensive coordinator position.