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Pagano's departure leaves several questions for Ravens to answer

With Chuck Pagano being hired as the Indianapolis Colts' new coach, the Ravens are now looking for their fourth defensive coordinator in five years. Linebackers coach and former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees is the front-runner for the job, but there are other questions in the wake of Pagano’s departure.

How will this affect safety Ed Reed’s decision to retire or return?

Pagano and Reed are extremely tight and have been for a while. It was Pagano, then a secondary and special teams coach at the University of Miami, who recruited Reed to Coral Gables.

“He is like a dad, friend, brother,” Reed said earlier this year. “When I shed tears, he sheds tears. He and I are truly family. He helped me grow up when I was at Miami. He helped with my mental preparation so much. He always got me thinking what could be the next play or what could be the next thing that the offense does. He always kept me thinking ahead … on the football field.”

Reed did not speak to the media following last Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots, so there remains uncertainly on whether he’ll come back next year to play another season. He has spoken of retirement the past couple of seasons and struggled at times this season with neck and shoulder issues.

Reed is as mercurial as they come, so I’m not going to sit here and pretend or predict whether he’ll return. But I feel comfortable in saying that Pagano leaving won’t help the Ravens if they have to convince him to play another season.

Will Pagano take some Ravens assistants with him?

At this point, this question is impossible to answer because we’ve yet to hear publicly from Pagano or Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh. Both Newsome and Pagano were traveling as of late this afternoon.

It’s entirely possible that the Ravens have some sort of agreement with Pagano that he can’t raid their coaching staff to fill his. But it’s also hard to prevent certain coaches from leaving, especially if they are being offered promotions in other places.

It will be interesting to see if the Ravens lose anybody to the Colts. Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler, who did a fabulous job this year working with Torrey Smith, has already attracted similar offers from other teams, including the Miami Dolphins, according to my colleague, Mike Preston.

What does this mean for offensive coordinator Cam Cameron?

Again, this is a hard question to answer without hearing yet from the Ravens’ top decision makers. We do know that Cameron spent much of the week with Harbaugh at the Senior Bowl and there were some indications today that his contract, which runs out next month, could return. Vinny Cerrato, the former GM of the Washington Redskins who is now with 105.7 The Fan, reported today on his radio show that Cameron will return, but that has not been confirmed by the Ravens.

There obviously is a school of thought that a team with annual Super Bowl aspirations might not want to usher in two new coordinators because that’s too much change for a team that was 25 seconds away from going to the Super Bowl. However, my general feeling is that Pagano’s departure has no bearing on Cameron’s situation. Perhaps, I’m wrong.

The sense we were getting leading up to the Patriots’ game was that Cameron wasn’t in as much trouble as some people, specifically the fans, thought. But that obviously was a gut-wrenching loss to New England so it wouldn’t surprise anybody if owner Steve Bisciotti wanted to make changes.

One other thing to consider here: Pagano and former Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson were on the same Ravens staff and know each other well. Jackson is already being mentioned as a front-runner to be Pagano’s offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, where he’d likely get the opportunity to mentor Andrew Luck.

Jackson, who was Joe Flacco’s quarterback coach here and has a very close relationship with him, is also believed to be a top candidate to be the Ravens’ next offensive coordinator if they decide to let Cameron go.   

Will players follow Pagano to Indy?

 Jarret Johnson and Jameel McClain are among the Ravens who spoke out today in support of Pagano. That’s fitting too because both are free agents who I’m sure wouldn’t mind playing under Pagano again.

Remember when free agents like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard followed Rex Ryan from Baltimore to New York after he became the Jets’ head coach? Like Ryan albeit in a little more toned down way, Pagano was very close with his players. He’s got tons of charisma and a magnetic personality.

I’m not saying that Johnson and McClain – or other Ravens’ defensive unrestricted free agents like Haruki Nakamura, Cory Redding, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Tom Zbikowski – are intent on leaving the Ravens.  But the Ravens can’t sign everybody and the Colts need all the defensive help that they can get.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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