How to interpret Juan Castillo's return

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
3:15
PM ET
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The biggest surprise of the "State of the Ravens" news conference was coach John Harbaugh's announcement that Juan Castillo was remaining with the Baltimore Ravens.

Castillo will have the same responsibilities but will have a new title.

"Juan will be the offensive line coach next year," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "The rest of it is a little bit in flux right now."

With Castillo officially taking that role, this likely means offensive line coach Andy Moeller will be heading elsewhere. As I wrote last week, I believed the odds were against Castillo staying.

Castillo was the run-game coordinator, and the Ravens finished with the worst rushing total in their history (83 yards per game) and the worst rushing average in the NFL (3.1 yards per carry).

Harbaugh said it's a mistake to put the blame on Castillo.

“I can understand why Juan is a lightning rod right now because of how we’re set up and structured,” Harbaugh said. “Then we go into the season and we have our worst year ever running the ball, and he’s got that title. That’s on me.”

Whether it's intentional or not, this decision to keep Castillo says the problem with the offensive line is the players, not the coaching staff.

Harbaugh is going to take heat for this decision because Castillo is in the crosshairs of fans, much like former offensive coordinators Matt Cavanaugh and Cam Cameron. But Harbaugh believes Castillo is one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL and that's why he is keeping him around.

There are going to be changes with the offensive line, and general manager Ozzie Newsome said one of the priorities is "to get bigger in the interior of the offensive line." I wouldn't feel too secure if I was center Gino Gradkowski upon hearing that.

If the Ravens are able to upgrade the players on the offensive line, there will be increased pressure on Castillo to show he's a top-notch coach. It will be hard to defend Castillo if the Ravens' offensive line struggles a second straight year with a revised cast of starters but the same coach.

Harbaugh has the final say on all decisions with his coaching staff, but he does seek input from Newsome about it.

"He wants me to ask questions about his staff because he wants to have the best staff in the National Football League," Newsome said. "And John is not afraid to make tough decisions or unpopular decisions if he thinks it’s in the best interest of the Baltimore Ravens. So, our relationship about his coaching staff – I don’t know if it’s matched in the league when it comes to that – and his ability to allow me to be real frank about what I think, and he listens.”

The decision to keep Castillo will be talked about on blogs and sports-talk radio for the foreseeable future. The only way for the Ravens to prove they were right about this is to come back with an improved offensive line in 2014.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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