An all-state linebacker at Fairview High School, he played at Colorado Mesa University from 1985-1988, earning a degree in business marketing. Pagano originally joined the Chargers in 2002 as the team"s quality control coach for the defense and moved his way up the ranks, first as an assistant linebackers coach, then as the outside linebackers coach and linebackers coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator on January 5, 2012. Since Pagano first started working with the team’s linebackers in 2005, a player from that group led the team in tackles and sacks every season, including Shaun Phillips who paced the squad in 2012 with 9.5.
In Pagano"s first year as a coordinator, the Chargers scored a total of seven defensive touchdowns in 2012, second in the to the Chicago Bears (12), and two shy of the team record set by the 1961 squad that returned nine interceptions for touchdowns.
The 2012 Chargers returned five interceptions and two fumbles for scores.