Should Juan Castillo remain as the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator for the 2012 season or should he be replaced?
That is the big question looming as the 2011 season comes to a close. We may have an answer by this time next week, or within the next two weeks for sure.
It’s my biggest question, anyway. Some folks are probably still hoping beyond hope that Andy Reid will be the one fired, but I have come to the conclusion that he will be back for yet another season.
So, assuming that Big Red is manning the sidelines in Philly next season, should he be accompanied by Juan Castillo or someone else to run the defense?
After losing to the Seattle Seahawks to drop to 4-8 on the season, most people were 100% sure that Castillo had to go (along with Andy Reid). Three weeks and three wins later, that notion has cooled a bit.
That’s the impact that winning games against the likes of Matt Moore/J.P. Losman (Miami), Mark Sanchez (New York Jets), and Stephen McGee (Dallas) has had.
Winning these past three games, all while playing better defense, has turned a no-brainer decision into a cloudy, difficult one.
However, I’m here to tell you to not be swayed by the past three games. The Eagles do need a better defensive coordinator.
With that said, I’m not so sure there will be very many people to actually choose from to replace Castillo. Sure, the Eagles could look at several up-and-coming assistants on other teams, but they need to bring in a clear upgrade at this point.
That’s where the crop of potential candidates gets weeded out. For Andy Reid to fire Castillo, he has to pretty much be 100% certain that the replacement can and will do a better job.
It’s easy to say in a sarcastic manner that anyone with actual experience on the defensive side of the ball would be a clear upgrade, but that’s simply not true.
For all of his struggles this season, somehow Castillo has engineered a defense that is ranked No. 8 overall (8th against he pass and 14th against the rush). He has persevered this year and has progressively gotten better.
If Andy Reid had chosen a more experienced person as his defensive coordinator for this season, there is no doubt in my mind that the Eagles would be headed towards the playoffs right now.
However, Reid can’t undo what he did. Now he’s left with yet another difficult decision that will impact the team in 2012.
There are reasons for, and against, keeping Castillo.
We all know the reasons against keeping him: seemed overmatched, blown leads in the fourth quarter, playing players out of position, players weren’t buying into his scheme, and ultimately he never should have been put in this position.
However, there is one compelling reason to keep him: continuity.
It’s important for teams to establish continuity, particularly with the coaching staff. Constant turnover and new schemes every year is counterproductive.
If Castillo is replaced, that will mean that three years in a row this team will have had a different defensive coordinator. Different philosophy, scheme, and coaching techniques.
That’s not a good recipe for a team looking to make a run for a championship next season.
It’s not as if Juan Castillo has been intolerably bad this year. He’s had to learn on the fly, while at the same time, his defenses were put in precarious positions due to the amount of turnovers committed by the offense and special teams this season.
And I don’t care who you are, no defensive coordinator would be able to make chicken salad out of the chicken poo that makes up the linebacker corps. What defense is going to be that good when you have three starting linebackers that would be special-teamers on just about any other team?
Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle could very well turn out to be half-decent, but you can’t expect that in their rookie years. Plus, Matthews and Keenan Clayton are the only linebackers on the Eagles’ roster that were drafted higher than round six.
The Eagles’ defensive coordinators have been handicapped at the linebacker position due to the poor philosophy of Andy Reid not valuing them too much.
But anyway, back to the point. Juan Castillo hasn’t been terrible when you look at the entire picture.
When you consider everything from his inexperience, to the lockout-shortened offseason, lack of talent at the linebacker position, a slew of new players, and dealing with a turnover prone offense, Castillo certainly could have been worse.
Now, having said all of that, you probably think that I’m “pro-Castillo”. Well, that’s not exactly the case.
I still think he should be replaced. Only, it has to be with someone with a good pedigree.
2012 is truly going to be a Super Bowl or bust year. If they don’t get it done next year, the entire team and coaching staff will be dismantled.
That’s why it would be somewhat ridiculous for the Eagles to bring in a no-name defensive assistant from another team.
Right now, for the 2012 season, the Eagles need a “blue chip” coordinator. Someone who has the known ability to step right in, take control, demand respect, and right the ship.
They do not need another Sean McDermott. They do not need someone that has never been in charge of a defense before. They need a guy who is proven and will be respected from Day 1 by the players.
Otherwise, they should just stick with Castillo.
The current group of players who are growing with Castillo will respond to him better than some “newbie” that they don’t know. The players need to be “all in” themselves if they want to win a championship.
I believe that was a big part of the problem early in the season on defense. The players weren’t “all in” because they were too busy being confused and not believing in what they were being coached.
As the year went by, they began to adapt to Castillo and Castillo began to adapt to them. Voila! “Chemistry” may have finally been born and hence the better play in recent weeks.
The only worthwhile reason to disrupt that is if there is someone available who’s knowledge and coaching acumen can overcome that.
Will there be anyone of such nature available?
Steve Spagnuolo is the obvious name that comes to mind. Would he fit this description? Yes, he most certainly would.
Spagnuolo would be a clear upgrade over Juan Castillo. For my reasoning on this subject, I’ll just refer to my previously written article on Spagnuolo.
In essence, Spagnuolo is proven as a defensive coordinator and would be a good fit in Philadelphia. The players would respond to him because of that, and the fact that he likes aggressive defense.
Most defensive players embrace being aggressive so if a coordinator with that type of reputation were brought in, they would likely get pretty excited.
There is some concern as to whether or not Spags’ blitzing style of defense would work with Jim Washburn’s wide-nine scheme, but I don’t see how that couldn’t be worked out. Castillo began to blitz more in the second half of the season and the players responded positively.
Much ado has been made recently about a report from Kevin Acee of the San Diego News where a league source states “it’s all but certain that Spagnuolo will join Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator.”
It’s a move that many people around Philadelphia have speculated on for a while now because it’s a logical move. However, I don’t put much stock into a “report” from a “league source” to a guy all the way across the country in regards to what will happen in Philadelphia.
It’s a distinct possibility that this could play out, but it is far from a sure thing. Spagnuolo could easily find work elsewhere or even take a year off.
Unfortunately for the Eagles and their fans, there aren’t many candidates worth considering right now. Once the regular season ends, there will be some firings and therefore more availabilities.
Besides Spagnuolo, the only other person worth considering right now is Jack Del Rio. However, there is no logical connection between he and Andy Reid that would make anyone think the Eagles would actually consider him.
Del Rio would be a clear upgrade to Castillo and he does have a good pedigree, but it’s highly doubtful he’d come to Philadelphia after such a long stint as a head coach. He’ll probably be looking for another head coaching job first and foremost.
If other candidates become available once the annual coaching purge commences, we can discuss them at that point.
But right now, Spagnuolo is the only person that seems logical and that who should become available within the next week or so.
Again, if the Eagles are to replace Castillo, it has to be someone that is clearly a superior defensive coordinator and someone who would fit in immediately.
It would be unwise for the Eagles to bring in another inexperienced person for a third consecutive year. Continuity is a huge factor for successful teams and that’s the edge Castillo has right now.
The only reason to make yet another change is if it’s for a coach who has the ability to take this defense to another level.