So it will be a little odd for Rivers to see Pagano across the field in the silver and black when the Chargers hit the road to face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
“It will be weird,” Rivers said. “I think, obviously, the defense itself schematically is not the same that Pags ran here and was a part of here for, shoot, 15 years.
“You do see a few things that you know his hands are in it. ... When I think of him, I think of a heck of a football coach. He can just coach football, whatever you want to call it -- 4-3, 3-4 and these coverages -- he just knows how to coach football. He knows how to attack offenses and what they like to do best. There’s no question to me that he’s an asset in an organization.”
Pagano started as a defensive quality control assistant for the Chargers in 2002 and eventually worked his way up to defensive coordinator, a role he served in from 2012 until the team let him go earlier this year after hiring new head coach Anthony Lynn.
Pagano was replaced by new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. It didn’t take long for Raiders coach Jack Del Rio to hire the experienced Pagano as an assistant head coach, brought in to help defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. fix communication issues on that side of the football.
“He certainly has a great understanding of the personnel and things,” Del Rio said. “Obviously, a lot of people are trying to pick his brain. The bottom line is, we’re happy to have him. I think he’s a really good coach. He’s got a wealth of experience and a lot of knowledge, and he’s a great communicator. He’s been a great addition for us.”
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says he talks with Pagano, usually on Wednesday. That discussion likely will be more detailed this week with Pagano’s knowledge of the Chargers’ defensive personnel.
“It’s nothing different,” Carr said. “I’m not going to make the conversations any different. He and I have a great relationship, and we love talking to each other about football and things like that.”
Under Pagano’s 3-4 defensive scheme last season the Chargers forced 28 turnovers -- tied for fourth in the NFL.
The Chargers also finished No. 10 in rushing yards allowed in 2016, giving up 98 yards on the ground per game.
Through five games this season, the Chargers have forced just four turnovers and are allowing a league-worst 161 rushing yards per game.
The Raiders haven’t been much better stopping the run this season, giving up 124.6 rushing yards per game (No. 25 in the NFL) and forcing four turnovers through five games.
Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said it should be interesting matching wits with Pagano on Sunday.
“Pags is an outstanding football coach,” Whisenhunt said. “He knows a lot about what we try to do to him. I’m sure he’ll have something planned for us. But you always enjoy going against friends that you’ve coached with, guys that are really good football coaches.”