Defensive Coordinator Juan Castillo, left, of the Philadelphia Eagles talks with Assistant Head Coach Russ Grimm of the Arizona Cardinals before the start of their game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images/AFP)
TORONTO - Now that Juan Castillo has been booted to the unemployment line, maybe he should save a spot for Andy Reid.
Castillo was axed as defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, just two days after Philly blew a 10-point lead in the final 3:22 of play en route to a crushing 26-23 overtime loss to the visiting Detroit Lions. Castillo’s duties will be taken over by secondary coach Todd Bowles.
Given the rich cache of defensive talent on the Eagles roster, it is obvious that this unit underachieved under Castillo’s watch. Allowing heartbreaking late-game comebacks the past two weeks in losses to the Steelers and Lions, well, that simply is unacceptable.
At the same time, Reid’s move reeks of desperation. It’s the type of act you see conducted by a beleaguered head coach who is attempting to save his job after owner Jeffrey Lurie said the the Eagles needed to finish better than 8-8 for Reid to salvage his position.
Reid knows that the 3-3 Eagles are on pace to end up at .500, a mark which would be unsatisfactory for ownership. As a result, having vowed that changes would come, he took the easy way out by making Castillo the scapegoat.
Castillo certainly deserves part of the blame, especially since his defence has never lived up to billing despite being augmented by big-money free agents like cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (five years, $60 million US) and defensive lineman Jason Babin (five years, $28 million) in the 2011 off-season.
Questionable coaching tactics last season certainly reduced the effectiveness of Asomugha, who repeatedly was asked to play zone despite being one of the NFL’s best one-on-one cover corners.
But the burden of responsibility still must fall on the shoulders of Reid for giving Castillo those duties in the first place.
It was Andy Reid, after all, who promoted Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive co-ordinator prior to the 2011 season, a curious decision given Castillo’s inexperience at working with defensive players. And it is that same Andy Reid who now has made Castillo the fall guy when, truth be told, it was Reid himself who bungled the situation by putting Castillo in a position to fail.
Not that Reid was ready to admit those things on Tuesday. Instead, he was in full spin-doctor mode, telling the world what a great guy and coach Castillo is.
“I want to make it clear that I have nothing but the ultimate respect for Juan Castillo as a coach and as a person,” Reid said in a statement on Tuesday. “He’s one of the finest football coaches that I have ever worked with. He has served this organization extremely well for 18 years and letting him go was a difficult decision. I know he will continue to be a successful coach in this league and wish he and his family nothing but the best.
“We’re six games into the season and average isn’t good enough. I know the potential of our team and insist on maximizing it.”
Blah, blah, blah ...
Realistically, if you buy Reid’s sales pitch that he is attempting to “maximize” the Eagles potential, well, even the strongest Reid backers must admit he’s done a poor job of doing just that.
How are you “maximizing” a team’s potential when you take a guy in Castillo who had never coached on the defensive side of the ball in his previous 16 NFL seasons and suddenly make him your defensive coordinator?
How are you “maximizing” your team’s potential when your owner drains his wallet for a free-agent jewel like Asomugha and then you allow your staff to minimize his effectiveness by implimenting a zone-first scheme?
How are you “maximizing” your team’s potential when you allow the brittle Michael Vick to be brutally battered each and every week by calling for seven-step drops when three-step drops would be far better for the quarterback’s long-term health?
How are you “maximizing” your team’s potential when you insist on turning Vick, one of the most dangerous scramblers the NFL has ever seen, into a drop-back passer?
And how are you “maximizing” your team’s potential when you only hand the ball off 14 times against the Lions to LeSean McCoy, one of the top three running backs in the league?
If Reid doesn’t turn things around in the next 11 weeks, he’ll have plenty of time to think of answers to those questions.