The easy thing to do is just rip Andy Reid for his decision to name Juan Castillo the Eagles new defensive coordinator. I'm more interested in trying to understand the move. Let's face it, no matter what decision Reid made there was going to be risk involved.
Just because a move makes sense in theory doesn't mean it will pan out. The Jaguars hired defensive guru Gregg Williams in 2008 and that didn't work real well. Mike Martz couldn't turn his genius into great offenses in Detroit or San Francisco. The Washington Redskins spent millions of dollars to put together a great coaching staff a few years back and got minimal results.
First, let's start by talking about Sean McDermott. He wasn't fired because he was inexperienced. He wasn't fired because he couldn't scheme well. McDermott wasn't the right guy for the Eagles at this point. Jay Glazer said recently that Brad Childress failed in Minnesota because he wasn't the same guy as he was in Philly. Apparently Childress decided that a head coach should be more assertive and authoritarian. That quickly wore down his players and some of the people he worked with. I think McDermott fell into a similar trap with the Eagles. He changed when he went from positional coach to defensive coordinator. You could tell he ruffled some feathers by the players comments after his dismissal. McDermott tried so hard not to be Jim Johnson that he also got away from being Sean McDermott and that hurt him. The notion that "we fired one guy due to lack of experience just to hire a guy with less experience" simply isn't the case. McDermott wasn't the right fit.
We all got a crash course on Wednesday in Juan Castillo 101. His background was unimportant for more than a decade, but now is the talk of the town. Honestly, I'd forgotten that he did have such a defensive background prior to joining the Eagles. So now the question becomes whether playing linebacker in college and the USFL and then coaching defense in high school and small college football is enough to make one qualified to run an NFL defense. I don't know. Many doubters will shout "No". Probably more like "No way in hell!!!". Still, the answer for all of us is that we don't know.
What I do know is that Juan Castillo is a good football coach. He's spent more than 25 years learning and perfecting his craft. If anyone can make this transition, I think Castillo has a chance to do it.
Football teams are split into offense and defense. Special teams is a mixture of both units, with a couple of true specialists. There is one unit that sort of operates by itself. That is the offensive line. Nobody thinks to themself "look at Ted Williams running backs". Or "there go Dick Jauron's defensive backs". You absolutely think of Juan Castillo's offensive line. Those are his guys. That is his unit. I think that aids the transition from positional coach to coordinator quite a bit. Castillo is used to running his line. Now he has the challenge of running the defense.
I think Castillo's personality will fit in well with the defense. He is a fiery, aggressive coach. He's very talkative. Castillo's players seem to respond well to him. And that is with a line that pass blocks 40 times a game. He could turn out to be a great fit on defense where he can truly get those guys to attack.
I don't doubt Castillo's ability to put together a gameplan each week. He's been part of that on offense. He'll get information from the quality control coach on tendencies and important stats. Castillo will then form a gameplan with his assistants based on that information. My question is what happens on gameday. Castillo will have to make split second decisions. He will have to make halftime adjustments. He'll have to deal with issues as players get hurt. This is the great unknown. Castillo did run a high school defense in the mid-80s, but that isn't comparable to what he'll experience on Sundays. And Mondays. And the occasional Tuesday.
Why did Reid choose Castillo over other candidates? Honestly, I don't think there was a candidate that jumped out from the others. Each one had some positives, but also some issues. People kept asking me who I wanted, but I couldn't give them a good answer. Mike Trgovac was my preference of the names that were mentioned, but there is no guarantee he would have taken the job. I had some interest in Darren Perry and Jon Hoke, but I was hardly excited by either candidate. The only guy I really, really wanted was Mike Zimmer of the Bengals and he wasn't available.
I kept waiting for a compelling candidate to come along, but that never happened. I'm guessing that Reid felt somewhat the same way. At some point he had to consider Castillo, but that would mean finding a really good line coach to replace him. When Howard Mudd agreed to come on-board, that had to change things drastically. Now the offensive line would have a great coach and Castillo was free to move to the other side of the ball.
I don't blame anyone who is critical of the move. It caught me off guard, big time. This isn't just thinking outside the box. This is outside the rhombus, trapezoid, and parallelogram. Andy Reid is absolutely rolling the dice with this move. Think about it. Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator. It just sounds funny. We'll re-visit this move many times over the course of the next year. At times it will look brilliant. Other times it will seem ridiculous (like now to many of you). For now, all we can do is wait. All the opinions in the world mean nothing until we see how the defense plays. Hmm...I wonder what Juan thinks of Albert Haynesworth and Namdi Asomugha.
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The addition of Howard Mudd as the line coach was brilliant. I didn't realize he had a background with Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. While they were at Missouri, the two young coaches would visit Mudd, who was the line coach for the Chiefs at the time.
Mudd did a masterful job of coaching linemen for the Colts. They didn't load him up with first rounders and elite talent, but he got the line to play at a high level on a consistent basis. I'm very excited to see what he can do with the Eagles. Mike McGlynn is an ideal fit for Mudd.
One interesting note for those who don't know, Mudd is best friends with new defensive line coach Jim Washburn.