Andy Reid is a sinner for allowing Steve Spagnuolo to become a Saint. A New Orleans Saint, that is. On Thursday evening, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported via twitter that Spags has agreed to run the Saints’ defense in 2012.
It was around this time last year when every Eagles fan let out a collective “WHAT THE <fill in expletive here>?!” when Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles announced that Juan Castillo was the defensive coordinator.
For the second year in a row, I find myself reacting the same way over the apparent decision to keep him.
The fact that an Eagles spokesman told Les Bowen of the Philly Daily News that Castillo will be in Mobile, Alabama next week for the senior bowl, pretty much confirms he’ll remain with the team (and presumably in his current role).
I can’t help but think back to Jeff Lurie’s press conference a couple weeks ago when he stated that the Eagles are chasing teams like the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. As a matter of fact, here are his exact words (transcript from CSNPhilly.com):
I thought we had a very good team, but I regarded Green Bay and New Orleans as the teams holding the last two trophies and I thought they were the most formidable teams in the NFC. I still believe that.
And here we are, almost three weeks after the season ended and the only thing that has happened is the firing of secondary coach Johnnie Lynn. Meanwhile, the Saints are not even a week into their offseason and they’ve already replaced their departed DC with arguably a better one.
So, if Lurie thinks the Saints were already formidable, what must he think now? Is that “unacceptable” Jeff?
There is still the possibility that Reid has his eye on somebody else and that Spagnuolo was never really a consideration. Todd Bowles is a name that has surfaced as a possibility because apparently he was on Reid’s short list of candidates last year.
However, is it really wise to bring in another coach that doesn’t have experience as a coordinator? In what is most likely a do-or-die year for Reid, that would seem awfully dumb.
That’s why we should all get comfortable with the term “continuity.” It’s a term I brought up before the season finale and still believe in today.
While I’m severely disappointed that Spags isn’t coming to Philly, the more level-headed part of me realizes that keeping Castillo is better than bringing in an inexperienced defensive assistant. In my eyes, the only two coaches who I would have replaced Castillo with were Spags and Mike Nolan.
Now that both of them are off the market, Castillo is the best option for next season. And maintaining continuity is a huge part of that reasoning.
Look, it’s not the end of the world that we didn’t get Spags. The Eagles can still be successful with Castillo running the defense next season.
Let’s list a few reasons for optimism as to why we shouldn’t panic if Castillo is the Juan running the defense again next year:
1. As inexperienced as Castillo was, he still ended up with the No. 8 defense (total yards).
2. Asante Samuel will be gone. Yes, this is a good thing for the defense.
3. They can, and will, add a better middle linebacker.
4. They could acquire a better safety.
5. DE Brandon Graham will be fully recovered and could be a force.
6. DT Antonio Dixon will be back.
7. All the young guys will be in their 2nd season.
8. There will be a full offseason this year.
9. Castillo will progress as a schemer and play-caller.
10. Offensive turnovers were the biggest problem on this team anyway.
The biggest thing that needs to happen now is for the players to believe in Castillo; believe in his scheme, believe in his play calling, and believe in his game plan. They may have finally started to do just that during their four game end-of-season “fools-gold run.”
Also, the biggest help to the defense next year should come from the offense and special teams. If they can dramatically reduce the number of turnovers, it will help the defense considerably.
The only team that had more turnovers this year than the Eagles’ 38 was Tampa Bay, who turned it over 40 times (and they were brutal). Of the four remaining playoff teams, the most turnovers any team has is 24. You can’t tell me that if the Eagles had 14 less turnovers, the season wouldn’t have turned out differently.
As long as they can get themselves on the plus-side of the turnover differential, tackle better, and add a couple of key pieces, the defense should at least be “good enough” for a run next year.
Ultimately, Andy Reid made his bed last year when he hired Castillo and now he has to sleep in it for one more year. If they fail to at least make the NFC Championship game, both coaches will be gone.
Furthermore, if they don’t make a serious run next season, 100% of the blame will rest on Reid’s shoulders, not Castillo’s. In other words, should they fail next year, it will be due to deeper problems than not replacing Castillo.