Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo ultimately became a victim of his own ambition. Because of his desire to advance up the coaching ladder, he desperately wanted a shot at being Andy Reid’s defensive coordinator.
Once Reid fired Sean McDermott after the 2010 season, Castillo started putting a bug in Andy’s ear about taking over the defensive coordinator position. However, as Lurie mentioned in his end-of-year press conference following last season, Reid had a list of candidates he wanted to check out first.
The problem, though, was that Reid had already hired defensive line coach Jim Washburn and had decided to employ his Wide-9 line approach. With that already in place, it likely deterred many defensive coordinators from wanting to come to Philly.
For what it’s worth, Todd Bowles was known to be on that list but the Eagles were denied permission to speak to him by Miami at the time.
Therefore, after his search for a more qualified defensive coordinator came up empty, he apparently “settled” for Juan Castillo.
According to Reid, Castillo was constantly in his ear about the job. That’s why I envisioned Castillo being like a 4-year-old kid tugging on his daddy’s pant leg begging him to buy the new G.I. Joe action figure he saw at the toy store.
After a while, and with all other options exhausted, Reid gave into the pleading from Castillo and gave him a shot.
Then, at some point during the NFL Lockout, Reid realized the complete moronicism of that decision and decided that maybe he could spray enough perfume on a flaming pile of horse manure so that nobody would notice that it was, in fact, a decision that really “stunk.”
That’s why he and the Eagles went on the biggest free agent spending spree in franchise history. The hope was that he could bring in so much defensive talent that it would overcome Castillo’s inexperience.
In came Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Nnamdi Asomugha and DRC after also spending 3 of their first 4 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball.
Basically, if said talent played well despite Castillo, it wouldn’t make Reid look like such an idiot for hiring him in the first place.
However, that didn’t exactly work out like he had hoped, as we’re all well aware. Last year’s defense was marred by the inability to hold leads as the team suffered multiple 4th quarter collapses.
Statistics aside, the defense was second on the list of reasons why the Eagles 2011 Dream season turned into a nightmare (behind offensive turnovers).
This past offseason, Reid was left with the decision to either own up to his mistake with Castillo, or lie in the bed he made for himself for one more season.
So it appeared that, unlike cruise ship captain Francesco Schettino, Reid had decided to go down with the ship when he retained Castillo instead of replacing him.
That’s why the Eagles again re-loaded on defense by trading for DeMeco Ryans and having a draft committed to improving the defensive talent. So again, Reid was trying to camouflage Castillo’s shortcomings by infusing a tremendous amount of talent on that side of the ball.
However, Reid is (sometimes) a smart man. He wouldn’t go into the season without some sort of a safety net, so the ever ingenious Andy decided to give himself a backup plan. He hired Todd Bowles, whom was on his original list of potential coordinators before hiring Castillo, to coach the secondary.
Make no mistake, Bowles was not hired just because of his prowess as a secondary coach, he was brought in to give Reid an out.
By the end of last season, Castillo was an embattled coach. He took a lot of heat for being in over his head. There was also a lot of talk about how the players weren’t responding to his system as well.
When players don’t believe in what they’re doing, the defense as a whole breaks down. That’s what we saw last season, too many break-downs and too much miscommunication between the players, especially the back 7.
Well, guess what? That same issue just cropped up after the Lions game when Nnamdi Asomugha stated that he wasn’t sure why the defensive strategy changed in the 4th quarter, which led to a complete collapse and ultimately a bitter loss.
Nnamdi basically questioned Castillo’s decision to change what had worked the previous 3 quarters. By doing so, the veteran leader was hanging Castillo out to dry.
Simply put, he and the players just weren’t believing in Juan and his system and/or decision-making.
Unfortunately, this type of situation becomes about respect and everyone buying in. Castillo was put in a position where he had to not only learn how to be a defensive coordinator, but also gain the respect of the men he’s coaching.
That’s a difficult task to do in a career like the NFL. Results are expected quickly and people lose patience if they’re not getting them. The players want to win and ultimately want to be in a system that highlights their skills.
Juan’s system was too conservative. Nobody was making plays because plays usually happen when a defense is aggressive. Not to mention, if the players feel like they can’t trust what their coach is telling them, it just leads to confusion and incohesiveness as a unit.
With all that said, I do not blame Juan Castillo for any of the defense’s failures. I can’t fault the man for having ambition and wanting to take his career to the next level.
No, this one was all on Andy Reid. And by putting Castillo in the position he did, he put a black mark on his career and made him endure some humiliation in the process.
Think about it for a minute…Jeff Lurie had made it known during his 2011 end-of-the-year presser that Reid had a list of coaches he wanted for the coordinator position after the 2010 season.
By doing that, Lurie publicly inferred that Castillo got the job by default. Then, there were players who admitted things weren’t really clicking for most of the year and that they weren’t buying into Castillo’s scheme.
That was two slaps in the face of Castillo. For a man that, at the time, was trying to establish himself and gain the respect of his players, that wasn’t a good thing.
Then, with fans and media heavily questioning Castillo’s status after last season, Reid remained quiet on the situation for just about an entire month. And during that time, the Eagles were talking to Steve Spagnuolo about the defensive coordinator job.
That was slap in the face #3.
Then Reid hires Todd Bowles to take over as secondary coach. Therefore, the Eagles now had a guy they ranked lower on their wish list (Castillo) in charge of a guy they may have hired over him in the first place if given the chance.
Talk about awkward! And that was also a nonchalant slap in the face #4.
At Reid’s news conference announcing the hiring of Bowles, he stated things like he “doesn’t get into titles” and that Bowles was someone who Castillo could “bounce things off of.”
So again, that wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence that Castillo was “the man”, so therefore that was slap in the face #5.
I feel nothing but empathy for Juan Castillo. While I didn’t agree with his initial hiring and subsequent retention, I can’t blame the guy for trying.
This was 100% the fault of Andy Reid. It’s the same kind of fault that a parent should feel if they allowed their 5-year-old to play with a box of fireworks and it exploded in their face. You wouldn’t say “dumbass kid”, you’d say “what a friggin dumbass parent!”
Andy should have protected Juan more, just like a parent would. Protect him from himself, in a sense. If Juan wanted to make the switch to the defensive side of the ball, he should have started him at an assistant position, such as linebackers coach, and not install him as the guy in charge of the entire defense.
Everyone on the face of the planet thought it was a ridiculous idea to switch your offensive line coach of 13 years to being the defensive coordinator overnight. Everyone except the overly ambitious Castillo and the overly arrogant Reid, that is.
Ultimately, some see this as a desperation move by Reid because he now has 10 games left to save his job. I don’t necessarily see it that way, it’s more like he gave Castillo as long as he possibly could before having to make the decision that we all knew he should have made back in January.
If anything, Reid waited too long because he wanted to give Castillo as long as he could to prove himself. But, time is running out for Reid too. He needed to make this move now, during the bye week, in an effort to save this season (more than firing Castillo needs to be done, but that’s for another story).
I blame Reid for putting himself and the team in this position by hiring Castillo in the first place, but I also can’t blame the man for trying to right the ship by firing him before it’s too late.
More certain than ever, these last 10 games are a do-or-die time for Big Red.