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Monday, January 30, 2012
Eagles make the right call on Castillo

By Dan Graziano

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Philadelphia Eagles will hire Todd Bowles as their defensive backs coach and keep Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator for 2012. The decision was a long time coming, and it's widely believed the Eagles were interested in replacing Castillo with Steve Spagnuolo before Spagnuolo took the defensive coordinator's job in New Orleans. But in the end, keeping Castillo for another year was the right thing for the Eagles to do.

Juan Castillo
The Eagles' defense struggled during Juan Castillo's first year as defensive coordinator.
Part of the Eagles' problem in 2011 was coping with all of the changes they made on defense -- new coaches, new personnel and new schemes all thrown together in a short period of time in a year that didn't have a real offseason in which to install all of it. To overhaul the defense again would have invited the same kind of early-season chaos that doomed the 2011 Eagles before they got their act together late and finished eighth in the league in total defense.

And yes, there were times when Castillo looked overmatched as a playcaller. He was, after all, the offensive line coach for the previous 13 years. But if you believe, as the Eagles and head coach Andy Reid do, that Castillo is a good coach, you can make the assumption that he'll be better in Year 2 than he was in Year 1 at the parts of the job that challenged him. Eagles ownership is basically giving Reid and his staff a mulligan for this past season on the condition that they make up for it with a deep playoff run next season. If Reid truly believes that the circumstances and not the people were the problem, he should stick with what he believed all along was the right way to go.

Bringing in Spagnuolo or another established defensive coordinator would have required the Eagles to either tell that person he needed to accept the "Wide 9" scheme implemented this past year by first-year defensive line coach Jim Washburn or tell Washburn he needed to scrap it. Either would have created an uncomfortable situation for coaches and players alike, and that would have been yet another thing to overcome at a time when the Eagles need to steer as clear as possible of upheaval. And firing Castillo would have been patently unfair, considering the nearly impossible position in which Reid put him.

The only potential issue with keeping Castillo is if the players don't buy in. The defensive backs in particular chafed last year at the amount of zone coverage they were asked to play. But perhaps the addition of Bowles, a longtime defensive backs coach who most recently was the interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins, will help sell the move to Nnamdi Asomugha & Co. if that in fact needs to be done.

The Eagles believe their plan will work, given a full offseason of work and continued dedication to the schemes that were new last year but won't be new this time around. They may be right and they may be wrong. But a plan's no good unless you're willing to stick with it, and a leader's no good if he's not willing to believe in his people. To overreact to the disappointment of 2011 and make major changes again just to appease those on the outside who are upset about it would have been a mistake. The Eagles are staying the course, and this offseason that's the right thing for them to do.