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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise: Eagles Name Offensive Line Coach as Defensive Coordinator


Juan Castillo by all accounts is a good guy, a hard-working coach dating back to the Ray Rhodes days, a guy who drove through a snowstorm to get to Green Bay after Andy Reid was named Eagles' head coach to lobby to keep his job as offensive line coach. His work ethic is supposed to be terrific. All of that, of course, is good stuff.

That he has spent almost his entire career on the offensive side of the ball, however, doesn't begin to suggest, let alone create confidence in the players, season-ticket holders and fans, that he knows the first thing about building a great defense or that he's had any experience doing so. Sure, he and Andy Reid can be flip about his facing good defenses as an offensive line coach, and Reid can also be flip about the fact that he couldn't move Castillo to another job unless he had a replacement for him who would be as good as he as an offensive line coach (which he succeeding in doing in hiring an outstanding line coach in former Colts' assistant Howard Mudd).

But let's face a few basic principles: 1) just because you're one of the top 5 to 7 head coaches in the NFL doesn't mean that everything you touch turns to gold; 2) when you're going to replace a coach, you'd better have someone who's better (and why is Castillo deemed to be a superior alternative to deposed coordinator Sean McDermott, who landed very quickly in Carolina?) and 3) typically, when you hire for a senior position, you look for a track record of achievement in the area for which you are hiring, which, in this case, would be defense. Reid and the front office seem to have flubbed it on all three points. As someone on sports talk radio in Philadelphia pointed out last night, if you ultimately wanted to make Castillo the defensive coordinator, wouldn't it have been wiser first to groom him by making him a position coach on defense instead of giving him the whole defense? And, what will be be able to teach the veteran d-line coach the team just hired from Tennessee or the two position coaches he'll have to hire to complete his roster? Why would a young defensive coach see a position coaching position with the Eagles' defense as a way to learn from a master when the defensive coordinator has precious little experience on defense and the head coach's background is on offense?

Achilles had his heel, and the Philadelphia Eagles have theirs when it comes to personnel matters. If Andy Reid wins a Super Bowl, it will be because he held steadfast to a system of beliefs and a vision for his team against all the naysayers and doubters. But if he fails to win a Super Bowl, it will be because he's always seemed to know better on personnel matters, such as going into a season a few years ago without a punt returner or going into a season without a fullback or frequently not having enough good linebackers. Those decisions, right now, pale in comparison with putting your defense into the trust of a well-intentioned, well-respected guy who is a neophyte when it comes to running an NFL defense (or any defense, for that matter). The move just doesn't make any sense, and it reminds me of a guy who struck it rich in one field and then bets his savings in real estate development because, well, he's been successful, he's smart, and he figures that he can strike it rich doing anything, only to lose his shirt because he picked the wrong location and didn't know the nuances the way veteran developers do. With this decision, Andy Reid is making that type of bold gamble.

All that said, for the past 3-4 years the Phillies have been able to steal the headlines away from the Eagles consistently in the off-season because they have fared better and have made better roster moves. The one thing you can say about the Castillo hiring is that for about a week, the Birds will push all talk of pitchers and catchers reporting and the Phour Aces off the front of the sports pages, drawing attention to themselves because of this decision. Someone once said that "no publicity is bad publicity, just make sure they spell your name right." Perhaps that's what the Eagles are hoping for. Then again, of course it's not.

It's hard for the Eagles to sell this one, and their fan base will not buy it, the same way they didn't buy that Jeremiah Trotter could have a resurgence at middle linebacker two seasons ago or that Winston Justice can protect Michael Vick's blind side or that there was wisdom in letting Jason Babin and Chris Clemons go in favor of Juqua Parker, Darryl Tapp, Ricky Sapp and Daniel Teo-Neisheim, or that guys named McCoy, Garner and Mays could play middle linebacker for the team. Sure, we realize that football is complicated and that the experts know a lot more than we'll ever know. We get all that.

We just don't get this (hence, for the over 45 set, the "Gomer Pyle" reference).

And, because we don't, we'll start to question other decisions more closely.

Because while the fans love the Eagles and desperately want to believe, after a while, even the thirsty trying to survive the desert realize that it's not a good idea to drink the sand.


Anonymous Chad D said...

Where was Andy Reid an offensive or defensive coordinator before joining the Eagles?

Why does everyone think this guy has been isolated to just the offensive line? Oh because people have never actually coached a team before. This guy has over 10 years with the Eagles, trust Andy on this one.

10:31 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your comment.

An unofficial rule for posting is that you must identify your blood relationships with Eagles' personnel after you make a post this.

I hear what you're saying. I do coach, and I've worked for a long time, and it's tough to wish a result with someone whose experience is far different from those the job requires. By the way, if this is such a wise move, then why haven't the other 31 teams done similar things? They haven't.

3:36 PM  
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