Juan Castillo Bowled Over; Big Red Feeling Hot
Juan Castillo has officially been fired as defensive coordinator of the Eagles, leaving a sad ending to an otherwise respectable career in Philadelphia.
Howard Mudd Todd Bowles, the secondary coach, has been named defensive coordinator.
Juan Castillo joined the Eagles in 1995 as an offensive assistant, working his way up to offensive line coach in 1998 in the last year of Ray Rhodes tenure. When Andy Reid was named the next head coach, Castillo famously drove to Green Bay and waited in the parking lot to have an impromptu meeting with Reid to convince him that he was the man for the job. It worked, and he enjoyed over a decade of success there.
Castillo coached some top quality lines during his tenure an was able to turn garbage into gold with a slew of unheralded players. Hank Fraley, Jamaal Jackson, and Artis Hicks were all undrafted and started effectively for multiple seasons with the Birds. He was also responsible for maintaining the fantastic mauling duo of Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan.
However, Castillo seemed overmatched at defensive coordinator. Last year he was described as essentially a raving lunatic in practices. He would be constantly running around, yelling, and even headbutting players with their helmets on. By the end of the season Nnamdi Asomugha admitted that the players had to coach Castillo a bit during the year and didn’t fully trust him.
Over the course of this season, various changes made it appear as though Castillo could be adequate. Press coverage from the corners with more man to man, having Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside, and the outstanding play of DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks left the Eagles at 3-1.
The last two weeks however, the defense has crumbled by giving up fourth quarter leads. And in the last three weeks, the defense has registered zero sacks. Yes, zero.
It was time for Castillo to go. His inability to free up defensive lineman or capitalize on on those double teams and chips by sending more pressure has been crippling. Also, getting away from man coverage to play zone defense against the Lions when they were struggling against man for three quarters was utterly nonsensical. It’s refreshing that Reid made this decision.
The main reason I like this move is that Reid understands that for the first time in his tenure he is truly on the hot seat. Jeffrey Lurie has always had confidence in Reid and this era of football and financial success for the Birds. While fans and ESPN have put Reid on the hot seat, Big Red has essentially been untouchable due to his ability to always make the Eagles a contender. However, what changes about this season is that Reid has never fired anyone mid-season.
During his press conference today, Reid took responsibility for putting Castillo in a situation to fail. He also said, “This is one of the moves and we’re still in the evaluation process.” He was non-committal in every sense, even in regards to Michael Vick as the starter. With no other coaches being fired, I would expect those changes to involve the players.
This is a sign that the head coach is truly desperate for wins this year. He’s finally behaving as if his job is on the line. This is a good step in the right direction for Reid as he tries to right the ship. The move also seems a lot like the Eagles decision to release Brian Rolle earlier in the year, which was viewed as a surprise.
It’s truly a put up or shut up situation for the Birds. Make no mistake about it.
With Bowles now in place, Reid needs to make the truest adjustment and look himself in the mirror. The offensive philosophy needs to change and if he’s unwilling to do what’s necessary to win by committing to the run rain or shine, then he deserves to go. We’ll see what happens when the Falcons come to town in two weeks in what should be one of the most important games of the season for the Eagles.