Well, the great Juan Castillo experiment has finally come to a bitter end, after 22 regular-season games in which the defense slowly improved but could never quite put it all together.
Last year, the team couldn't stop the run. Then, they were helpless against the pass despite boasting three star-caliber cornerbacks. This year, the pass defense has tightened up but the Eagles have been helpless at putting pressure on the quarterback, recording nary a single sack in weeks four through six despite leading the league with 50 sacks last season.
The switch from Castillo to Todd Bowles comes at an interesting time, midway through a season in which the defense has hardly been the team's Achilles heel. What can we glean from Reid's decision? A couple of observations:
- It's really a shame that we wasted 22 meaningful games trying to find out if Cattillo could magically coach defense at the NFL level despite never having done it outside of high school, and even then not since 1989. Surprise: he couldn't. How was this supposed to work, again? I don't have the facts to back this up, but if I had to guess, I would say that the Castillo hire was unprecedented. The amount of hubris and lack of foresight that it must have taken to believe there was any other way for this saga to end speaks volumes about Andy Reid's apparent inability to effectively manage the coaching staff.
- Did we learn something new about Castillo's defensive coaching capabilities in the last six weeks? Is there a reason this didn't happen in the offseason, when Todd Bowles or someone else might have had an opportunity to properly prepare to take over the defense? Now the defense will have to adjust on the fly. Castillo's defense seemed to have improved significantly since last season. What kind of performance did he need to save his job?
- In response to my own last point: The defense had actually slipped from eighth in yards allowed and 10th in points allowed in 2011 to 12th and 13th this year, respectively. They can't get to the quarterback, as I noted earlier, and after six weeks they rank tied for 19th in total takeaways (and they haven't had their bye yet). Jim Johnson's defense, this ain't.
- I do kind of feel bad for Castillo. It was a hundred-to-one chance that he could succeed in not only an entirely unfamiliar position at an extremely demanding level, but that he could do so with an influx of (by my count) around six new starters in his first year (Babin, Asomugha, DRC, Coleman, Jenkins, and whoever was playing middle linebacker in a given week last season). By all accounts, Castillo is a hardworking, humble guy who deserved a better chance to succeed than he got.
- I'm cautiously optimistic that this means Reid (and, by extension, Vick) are gone if the Eagles don't make the playoffs. The defense really hasn't been terrible this year, and 3-3 doesn't usually scream "major mid-season firing." Adam Schefter did report that the Eagles would cut Vick if they didn't make the playoffs, which is no surprise given his fragility, his cap number, and his lack of success following a mirage of a half-season in 2010. But if Reid weren't concerned about his immediate job security, it seems like he would have waited until the offseason to can Castillo as a scapegoat.
Lots to read into about this move and its timing. But more importantly, we ought to reflect on how ridiculous a premise Castillo as defensive coordinator was from the start. The decision to hire him was laughable from the start, and, as the old adage goes, you reap what you sow.
In this case, Reid sowed the seeds for a porous defense and a .500 record, and he may just reap the end of his own tenure as Eagles coach.