- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Samari Rolle’s endorsement of Chuck Pagano was unequivocal.
The former Titans and Ravens cornerback was with the Ravens in 2008-09, when Pagano coached Baltimore’s defensive backs.
Pagano just emailed Rolle last week, and Rolle was thrilled to learn from his wife on Wednesday that Pagano is the new head coach in Indianapolis.
“He’s detail-oriented, but at the same time he’s not always talking to you like a coach, he’s talking to you like a man, like you two are on the same level,” said Rolle, who played 10 games for Baltimore in 2008 and was on IR in 2009. “He trusts you. He trusts what you think about the defensive call, about your technique. He lets you be who you are.
“When we were on the practice field, he was one of those guys Ray Rice would mess with, guys from all positions would mess with. He would joke with them and that type of thing where, most of the time, you don’t even speak to half the position coaches on the team unless you have to.
“I think he’ll do a great job. I’m happy for him. I emailed him to congratulate him. I think the only tough part is the fact that he’s going to the Colts, and there is a lot of uncertainty there.”
Some more highlights of my chat with Rolle about Pagano:
On personnel: Expect Pagano to play to the strengths of the people he inherits and to try to gain favorable matchups. The Ravens simplified things more than people think in ways that simply got their best people in the best position.
Rolle rates Pagano as a “great adapter.” He expects Pagano will ultimately want the Colts to field a bigger defense, but will know getting it will be a gradual process.
On offensive approach: “Oh, Chuck likes to run. He likes to run and he believes in keeping the defense fresh. I think if anything, his philosophy is going to be like Coach (Jeff) Fisher’s was in Tennessee,” Rolle said.
On the reasons players like him: He listens to hip hop. He loves joking around with the fellas. Pagano coached at Miami when Rolle was at Florida State, and when they were both with the Ravens they went back and forth about the rivalry all the time.
"He’s got a great football memory,” Rolle said. “He remembers scores, years. He’s fun loving. He’s very, very down to earth.”
On potential assistants: Hue Jackson, recently fired after one season as coach in Oakland, coached Baltimore quarterbacks in 2008-09.
“I could see (Pagano) reaching out to Hue Jackson to be his coordinator," Rolle said. "Hue was there with Chuck and they had some great battles during one-on-ones, some talking wars. I think Hue would be a good person, he might have gotten a raw deal in Oakland. Hue knows football and he knows offensive football.”
On possibly working with Andrew Luck: Rolle likes the idea of Pagano being married to Luck, if the Colts move away from Peyton Manning, the way John Harbaugh is married to Joe Flacco, Rex Ryan to Mark Sanchez, Jim Schwartz to Matthew Stafford and Ron Rivera to Cam Newton.
“That’s one of the big pluses I think, when you come in there with a quarterback at the same time, the degree of his success, that will probably determine the success you have,” Rolle said.
On what kind of media personality Pagano will have: "I don’t think he’s a guy who doesn’t like talking,” Rolle said. “The one thing he’ll probably get tired of is having to address all the questions about Peyton. But you ought to give him some time to get adjusted to it.
“He’s got a great personality. He’s not going to make a mockery of your question or be sarcastic. He’s down to earth. I think he gets you guys.”