The Eagles Fired Juan Castillo. Too Bad His Defense Was Actually Playing Well.

  • Dylan Murphy

You know what happens when you promote your offensive line coach to defensive coordinator? You have an offensive line coach serving as the defensive coordinator and a built-in scapegoat from the beginning. So it should come as no surprise that Juan Castillo, leader of the Eagles defense, has been relieved of his duties after the Eagles’ 3-3 start. Secondary coach Todd Bowles will take over as the interim defensive coordinator.

Here’s what Andy Reid initially had to say, via ESPN (he has a press conference scheduled for today at noon):

“I want to make it clear that I have nothing but the ultimate respect for Juan Castillo as a coach and as a person. 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.”

Blame Castillo all you want, but actually don’t. Because the defense, at least statistically, has little to do with the team’s poor performance. According to Football Outsiders, Philadelphia is actually ranked 9th in DVOA on defense and 26th on offense. Even by more conventional, though less telling, metrics, the Eagles have been rather successful – 12th in yards allowed per game and 13th in points allowed per game. Of course there’s no way to tell if the defense was performing in spite of Castillo, but this seems hardly plausible.

Reid is probably still suffering from nightmares of the “Dream Team” defense underperforming early last season. But despite coming on strong in November and December and starting off well this year, Castillo was axed. You’d think Reid would have access to such statistics, or notice that Michael Vick has turned the ball over 13 times (8 INTs, 5 fumbles lost) through six games, but then again Andy Reid. Nevermind that midseason coordinator disposals almost never work and reek of desperation. The Eagles are 3-3 and reeling, barely able to squeak out victories and blowing late leads with regularity. So it should come as no surprise that somebody (however ill-aimed the finger pointing) was canned.

This is the first step in the NFL’s time-honored franchise collapse tradition, in which important assistants are cut loose as the head coach attempts to save his own ass. Eventually the quarterback who he has invested in reveals his true colors after a prolonged honeymoon period, and the head coach officially has nowhere to hide. Then both QB and coach lose their jobs, an exciting new coach comes in with an inverted philosophy (hard ass or players coach, depending on what was there before) and reinvigorates the franchise with his (hopefully) savior QB.

Only the coaches who invest in the right quarterback survive his eventual downfall – Andy Reid had so many good years with Donovan McNabb that he’s been allowed this post-apocalyptic grace period. But it looks like that extended untouchability has passed, and it’s unfortunate that Castillo, of all people, had to be the first sacrificial lamb.

Our own Glenn Davis sums up this whole kerfluffle quite nicely:

“Was he Mike Vick’s ‘don’t fumble’ coach?”

No, Glenn, no.