Why Him? Why Now? Why Did The Eagles Hire Juan Castillo?
That is the first text I received regarding the Eagles hiring of former offensive line coach Juan Castillo as the defensive coordinator. When I first got the text my initial thought was “Oh don’t tell me the Phillies traded for Luis Castillo of the Mets” but my Twitter feed was lit up with my much more puzzling story.
When the Eagles fired Sean McDermott on January 15th they set off a negative powder keg because just three days earlier head coach Andy Reid assured McDermott, through the media, that he would be retained for the upcoming season. Instead of being happy that an inept McDermott would no longer be calling the plays the media took a different approach, criticizing Reid for “lying”.
While the media bashed Reid, the Eagles went to work looking to fill their vacant defensive coordinator spot. At first the obvious choice was to promote Dick Jauron to defensive coordinator. He brings a wealth of experience and the Reid regime usually like to promote from within. That idea was squashed when Jauron accepted the vacant defensive coordinator job with the Cleveland Browns. Jauron gave the Eagles an opportunity to match the Browns offer but the Eagles declined so don’t get confused. The Eagles didn’t lose out on Jauron, they simply let him go.
Immediately reporters all around the Philadelphia area started throwing their two cents in. For a while it looked like the Eagles guy might be Mike Trgovac who is currently the Packers defensive line coach. But as Reuben Frank pointed out in his blog on CSNPhilly.com, It didn’t make sense for the Eagles to hire Trgovac because they had just hired long time Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn. As Frank pointed out, you wouldn’t have two defensive line coaches on your defensive coaching staff.
With the Super Bowl inching closer and closer many assumed that the next Eagles coordinator was on one of the remaining teams. Was it Packers secondary coach Darren Perry? Or maybe Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler. In a shocking twist it was neither.
On February 2nd the Eagles announced that they would promote offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator. Castillo, who hadn’t coached defense since high school, would now be in charge of an Eagles defense that ranked 22nd in the NFL.
“All I can do is laugh” was one text I got. “Who the Hell is he?” was another. As the texts continued to roll in, it quickly became apparent that I was not the only one who was extremely puzzled by this hiring. The big question was why now? If the Eagles had their guy all along why wait until now? Why go through all of those interviews, and waste everyone’s time, when you had the guy you wanted. More importantly why not just wait a week when you’ll be able to interview candidates from the Packers, and the Steelers?
These questions will probably never be answered because NFL coaches never answer any questions upfront. When asked about it Reid will probably dance around the issue, praise Castillo, his work ethic, and then to evade more questions he will let Castillo talk about how happy he is to be promoted and he looks forward to restoring this Eagles defense to the prominence it had just a few years ago.
While I question the hiring I’m trying to stay positive regarding Castillo. The one thing I kept thinking was that it will be tough to be worse than Sean McDermott. McDermott was young, and full of inexperience. He was in over his head, and his defenses were downright pathetic. While Castillo doesn’t have an experience in the field of defense, he is a veteran coach who might be able to bring something new to the table.
One thing Castillo should be able to help with is the defensive line. Combine Castillo’s knowledge of how an offense line works, and new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, they should be able to get that untapped talent from their defense line. We saw a good year from Trevor Laws last season but Brandon Graham had a bad rookie year, Victor Abiamiri has never lived up to being drafted in the second round. Hopefully all this knowledge of how the defensive and offensive line works can result in a ferocious pass rush.
However with the possible good comes the possible bad. Players were shocked to learn about the hiring of Castillo as their new coordinator and they took to Twitter to show it.
“I didn’t know Juan knew defense” said Omar Gaither
“That’s Shocking” Said Darryl Tapp
“The Offensive line Coach??” Said Asante Samuel
“Congrats to Juan Castillo! He’s Worked hard and earned it… I hope the defense is ready to work! Lol” Tweeted Eagles guard Todd Heremans and then retweeted by Eagles defensive end Victor Abiamiri.
So as you can see, Eagles fans weren’t the only ones who were shocked about the hiring. Now I’m not worried about the players the Eagles already have, I’m worried about the players the Eagles don’t have. The Eagles are always a team that us under the cap. I believe they do this so when a free agent comes along they like they can grab him up. They have done this before with Javon Kearse, Asante Samuel, and Chris Clemons. The Eagles currently have a secondary that would have a tuff time stopping Steven Hawking. But that can all be fixed……maybe.
Currently the Eagles have Nate Allen as their starting free safety, Asante Samuel as their starting left corner, Dmitri Patterson as their starting right corner, and their strong safety spot is open for grabs since Quintin Mikell is a free agent to be. That’s a bad secondary but it can be transformed with two signings. The first being shut down corner back Nnamdi Asomugha who became a free agent thanks to a clause in his contract with the Raiders. Teaming Asomugha with Samuel could create a shut down corner back tandem that quarterbacks would fear. Asomugha was the least targeted corner back in 2009. The next would be to resign Mikell.
You could quickly transform your secondary from pathetic to shut down, but if you’re Asomugha why would you come to Philly? How will the hiring of Castillo, a guy who hasn’t coached defense, affect free agent signings? The Eagles have a lot of holes, most of them being on the defensive side of the ball, and you can’t address all of those through the draft. While the Eagles have a ton of money you couldn’t blame a player for not signing with the Eagles because they simply don’t know what they’re going to get in Castillo.
Eagles fans will discuss this signing for the next few months. If Castillo’s defense struggles they will question it for the next year. Answers will come in the form of on the field performance but that day isn’t close and its leaving me plenty of time to wonder why him, why now.