ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. on Tuesday in a staff shake-up during a disappointing season.
Coach Jack Del Rio called the move a difficult decision and said that assistant head coach for defense John Pagano will take over as coordinator leading into this week’s home game against the Denver Broncos.
“I have the utmost respect for Ken as a person and as a coach, but I feel that moving John Pagano into the play-calling role will best utilize his wealth of experience,” Del Rio said in a statement. “I appreciate Ken’s passion and commitment to the Raiders since coming aboard and wish him the best going forward.”
This marks the second coordinator change the Raiders have made since finishing last season 12-4 for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2002. Del Rio fired offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave last offseason and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and now has let go of Norton.
Norton was on shaky ground even last year and the Raiders added Pagano to the staff in the offseason in hopes of reducing big plays and improving communication in the secondary.
There has been little improvement on the field as the Raiders (4-6) have been one of the league’s bigger disappointments after entering the season as a contender to challenge the New England Patriots in the AFC.
“We for sure could have done some different things,” defensive tackle Justin Ellis told reporters. “He made some good points while he was here. We played under our talent level and those things come with consequences.”
Norton’s final game came against New England and the Raiders were picked apart by Tom Brady in a 33-8 loss in Mexico City. Brady completed his first 12 passes in the game and went 30 for 37 for 339 yards and three touchdowns, including a 64-yarder to Brandin Cooks against rookie Obi Melifonwu, who moved from safety to cornerback for that game.
The Raiders have been hurt by injuries in the secondary with first-round cornerback Gareon Conley playing just two games before undergoing season-ending surgery this week for a shin injury. Melifonwu, a second-round pick, missed the first eight games with a leg injury and starting cornerback David Amerson has been sidelined three games by a foot injury.
The Raiders have become the first team in modern NFL history to fail to intercept a single pass in the first 10 games and are tied for the fewest takeaways at this point in the season with just six.
Oakland has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 72.3 percent of their passes for a 113.3 passer rating, both of which would rank as the second worst of all-time.
Pagano’s first game as defensive play-caller will be Sunday against the Broncos (3-7), who fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday and replaced him with Musgrave, who had been quarterbacks coach.