Juan Castillo

Photo: nfl.co

On the surface, the hiring of Todd Bowles appears to be a good move by Andy Reid.  Bowles has a good reputation and has done well wherever he has coached.  However, when you look at this situation and the circumstances surrounding it, this move could ultimately create more unneeded problems on the defense.  Maybe if Reid had gone to one of the sports management colleges he may have been able to make better choices.

Andy Reid has always been the man with a plan.  That was his reputation from the day he interviewed with Jeff Lurie about the Eagles’ vacant head coaching position in 1999.

When Reid was hired, he followed through with his plan by bringing in Jim Johnson to run the defense while he rebuilt the offense.  Reid drafted Donovan McNabb, signed Jon Runyan, utilized some leftover talent from Ray Rhodes, had a great draft in 2002, and the team ultimately made a Super Bowl appearance in 2004.

Every move he ever made was calculated.  The players and coaches he brought in and the players he let walk away from Philadelphia were very good decisions through the first half of Reid’s tenure.

However, either Reid is losing his touch, losing his mind, or running out of luck.  For whatever reason, his grand plan never seems to work out anymore.

Let’s go back to the offseason following the 2009 season in which they lost back-to-back games against Dallas to end the year.  That was the year Joe Banner gave his infamous statement about the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results).

This is where I think Reid’s master planning skills started to deteriorate.  He decided to trade McNabb and anoint Kevin Kolb as the starter for 2010.  But wait, even though Michael Vick was on the team, there would be no open competition.  Kevin Kolb was the man.

Then after exactly one-half of football in the 2010 season opener, Michael Vick became the starter and Kolb was ultimately traded away.

And without Jim Johnson, the Eagles defense took steps backwards under the guidance of Sean McDermott.  So, McDermott is fired after the 2010 season.

This is where Reid completely lost it.

He apparently had a list of candidates he wanted to choose from to replace McDermott.  But for various reasons, none of them could work out.  Therefore, he “settled” for Juan Castillo.

To be clear, Castillo was 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.

Reid, realizing the complete moronicism of that decision, 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.

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.  This 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 appears that, unlike Francesco Schettino, Reid has decided to go down with the ship.

He is retaining Juan Castillo as the defensive coordinator and has hired Todd Bowles to be the secondary coach.  But again, was this Reid’s initial plan?  Obviously not, as Reid admitted to talking to Steve Spagnuolo about coming to Philly, and that’s why this situation could lead to more disaster for the team.

Let’s think about this for a minute…Jeff Lurie had made it known during his end-of-the-year press conference that Reid had a list of coaches he wanted for the coordinator position last year.

By doing that, Lurie openly 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’s two slaps in the face of Castillo.  For a man trying to establish himself and gain the respect of his players, that’s not a good thing.

Then, with fans and media heavily questioning Castillo’s status after this 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.

And speaking of that, did you like how Reid put a nice spin on his pursuit of Spags?  He phrased it by saying things like he told Spags “he’d have a place to land” (in Philly) and that he doesn’t get into the whole “title” thing (defensive coordinator, assistant, etc)

You mean to tell me that Reid only offered a guy like Spags a “spot” on his defensive coaching staff?  Yeah right!  If he did, no wonder Spags turned it down.  He had to have been offered the DC title at least.

But anyway, back to the point.  There were also several players who admitted that they had no idea whether or not Castillo would be back again.  If the players at least thought he should be, they most likely would have given him a vote of confidence.

But those votes of confidence never really came.  So again, more slaps to the face of Castillo.

Now, they have hired Todd Bowles to take over as secondary coach.  Bowles was confirmed to be on Reid’s list of candidates last year but was denied permission to interview him.

Therefore, the Eagles now have a guy they ranked lower on their wish list in charge of a guy they may have hired over him last year if given the chance.

Talk about awkward!

The problem is, if the players think that the Eagles preferred Bowles initially, they could naturally gravitate towards him next season.  After all, Bowles was looking for a head coaching position so I’m sure he has the mindset of a coach who is looking to work his way up the ranks.

If Bowles and/or the players see Castillo as being “weak”, and the players start to follow him, it could make for a very uncomfortable dynamic on the defense.

The Eagles defense struggled mightily for the first half of last season and much of that was due to confusion and incohesiveness between Castillo and the players.  For a team to function at its best, there can be no question about who’s in charge and what they’re supposed to do.

There has to be a single plan and everyone has to buy into that plan.

If the players still don’t believe in Castillo, but start believing in Bowles, there will again be cohesion problems and dissension on the defense.  The end result will be just the same as last season.

You might think that the easy answer, if this were the case, would be to just fire Castillo (during the season) and promote Bowles.  While that could be a possible solution to such a problem, how long would it take before that actually happened?

And how much damage would have already been done?  I’m not a fan of making big changes to the coaching staff in mid-season unless the season is already over as far as playoff aspirations.

If Andy Reid gives any indication that Bowles could take over if Castillo struggles, he’ll be creating an unstable situation.  The players will get mixed messages and again play without cohesion.

And to be clear, I’m talking about if Reid creates such an environment internally, regardless of what he tells the media.  He tried to paint a rosy picture at his press conference by saying things like “he doesn’t get into titles” and that Bowles is a guy Castillo can “bounce ideas off of.”

The problem is, only one guy can be in charge.  What will the players think if they see Castillo running to Bowles too often to “bounce ideas off of?”  The players could start saying to themselves, “why am I listening to Juan when it seems that Bowles is the guy who knows what he’s doing?”

I’m sure that Bowles is not coming in here with an evil plan to overthrow Castillo.  However, he could be entering a situation where he is viewed as the man in charge.  People naturally gravitate towards leaders and those who obviously know more about what you’re doing than someone who doesn’t.

For example, say you have a supervisor and a person who acts as a team-lead in your department at work.  The person who is the team lead knows exactly what you’re doing and can answer any question with confidence.

The supervisor is a good guy but he doesn’t really understand how to do your job because he didn’t come up through the ranks and gain that experience.  Who are you more likely going to follow or go to for the majority of your issues?

That’s the kind of scenario I wonder about here.  Granted, Bowles hasn’t been a defensive coordinator yet, but he is a well-respected coach who did a three-week stint as an interim head coach.  He then interviewed for the head coaching job in Miami as well as the one in Oakland.

Therefore, he obviously wants to be more of a leader and most likely will have that air about him.  If players detect uncertainty in Juan Castillo, they could easily, even if subconsciously, look to Bowles for direction.

I think it’s safe to say that Andy Reid has completely mishandled his defensive coordinator situation since the death of the great Jim Johnson in the summer of 2009.  Ever since then, he seems to be flailing around like a fish out of water.

He has completely disrespected Castillo by allowing it to get out to the media (even though it was Lurie) about him being plan B (or plan C, D, E…whatever) at defensive coordinator.  Then he remains agonizingly silent about Castillo’s job status while trying to convince Spagnuolo to take the job.

So again, Castillo is the fallback guy.  That does not instill confidence and it clearly indicates Reid is grasping at straws again.

While I like the hiring of Todd Bowles, it may only further complicate things for the 2012 season.  The only way this will work is if Castillo becomes the “Alpha Dog” on the defensive side of the team and earns the respect of the players.

 

 


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