SAN DIEGO — You can pretty much bet that if John Pagano tried to call Chuck Pagano this week, the older brother didn’t pick up.
While the brothers have coached against each other before, Monday night’s edition of the sibling rivalry will be the first since Chuck became head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and John was promoted to defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers.
Chuck Pagano, seven years older than John, has done what he can to help his younger brother along the way: “As much as I possibly can, like any brother would do for a sibling. No more, no less. Obviously none this week.”
Nothing personal, really. The Colts (4-1) are alone in first in the AFC South behind Andrew Luck, a power running game and a defense intent on working over Philip Rivers and the enigmatic Chargers (2-3), who looked great in beating Dallas and miserable in losing at Oakland.
Even in normal times, the demands of the job and the time difference between San Diego and Indianapolis work against the brothers keeping in touch.
“Really, it’s him being on the left coast and me being on the right coast for the better part of our careers,” Chuck Pagano said. “Really the only time we were on the same time zone was probably when I was at Oakland and he was at San Diego. We really don’t have a chance just because of the time difference. Again, by the time he wants to say something it might be 8 or 9 o’clock his time, and I’m not picking up at that time, so it’s hard.”
John Pagano likely was too busy trying to come up with schemes to stop Luck and Indy’s running game than to think much of the brotherly rivalry. Besides, he leads 7-1 in the matchups against his brother over the years.
“It’s nice. We’ve done this so many times now. Being able to coach against each other or be on opposite sidelines, but at the end of the day it’s Chargers and Colts on ‘Monday Night Football,’ ” said John Pagano, who’s been on San Diego’s staff since 2002. “It will be good to see him before kickoff and say hello, but when that ball is kicked off the only thing that is on my mind is San Diego winning and that’s the most important thing.”
Rookie Chargers coach Mike McCoy had a little fun with the rivalry.
“John said we’re going to outcoach him. He said he’s been doing it all of his life, so I said, ‘OK, let’s go,’ ” McCoy said.
“I think it’s great to see brothers like that be in this profession. There are only so many of us that are able to do this, at this level,” McCoy said. “Or have the opportunity, I should say. It’s great for a family like that with two great guys. I mean they’re both phenomenal football coaches, but they’re better people. It’s going to be a lot of fun for them, I think, with their families and everything.”
The Paganos grew up in Boulder, Colo., where they played for their father, Sam, at Fairview High. Sam Pagano plans to attend Monday night’s game.
“We were very fortunate to grow up in a football family, grow up in the environment that we did,” Chuck Pagano said. “Again, he tried to talk both of us out of it when we decided to get into coaching. There’s some good days, but there’s some bad days, too. And it takes a lot of sacrifice on a lot of people’s part, especially your family. It’s hard on these coaches’ families and their kids. It’s a tremendous sacrifice. Just like our players make, coaches make one heck of a sacrifice. It’s a lot of time and a lot of hours.”
While the sibling rivalry makes a nice storyline, it’s clearly not as big as Eli Manning vs. Peyton Manning or last season’s Super Bowl matchup between brothers John and Jim Harbaugh.
Rivers can attest to that. He said the Pagano rivalry has come up only among a handful of players who’ve known John Pagano for several years.
“It’s just in a joking way. Besides that, it hasn’t been brought up,” Rivers said. “I’m sure most of the guys know that is the case, but I wouldn’t put it past them that not everybody knows that they are brothers.”