This morning, the Eagles announced that they had “dismissed” (read: fired) Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator. At Andy Reid’s press conference this afternoon, he said that he had “released” (read: fired) Castillo. Judging from Reid’s remarks in his press conference, it doesn’t sound like he’s done making changes, either. Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, special teams coordinator Bobby April, defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and quarterback Michael Vick would all figure to be on the proverbial “hot seat” in the next couple weeks.
It’s clear that this move is a desperate attempt by Andy Reid to save his job. Reid has never fired a coach mid-season in his 14 years in Philadelphia, yet that’s exactly what he did today. And he picked the coach of the best unit on the team to fire! The defense is ranked 13th so far, and while they blew late-game leads in each of the past two weeks (Sunday was particularly inexcusable), they’ve done an admirable job of keeping the team in games all season despite the offense’s turnover-prone play and low point totals. The offense, meanwhile, despite being ranked 31st in scoring and having an alarming 17 turnovers on the year, has escaped Reid’s wrath for now.
Change was definitely needed to contend this year. I said about as much yesterday. But this was the wrong move to make. There were plenty of other options for Reid. He could have fired Marty Mornhinweg and taken over the play-calling duties himself. It would have shown that he was taking the offense’s struggles seriously and was taking matters to correct them. He could have promoted Nick Foles and benched Michael Vick, though I think that would have been a bad idea. At least it would have been some sort of change. Reid also could have fired Bobby April, whose special teams units have been all-around horrific this season. I would have supported the firings of Mornhinweg and April because it would have shown that those who aren’t performing at the level they should be will face consequences, and would have disagreed with (but understood) promoting Nick Foles for the same reason.
If Reid really wanted to make changes on the defensive side of the ball after that dumpster fire of a 4th quarter yesterday, the changes should have started and ended with DL coach Jim Washburn. His unit has been, in one word, abysmal this year. The Eagles defense ranks 30th in the league with 7 sacks, way down from last year’s numbers. The Eagles’ defensive scheme is predicated on the defensive line putting pressure on the QB on every dropback. That’s why the defensive ends line up so far outside the tackles (the infamous “Wide 9″ alignment), and why the Eagles rarely blitz. However, the lack of pressure on Ben Roethelisberger and Matthew Stafford the past two weeks has allowed them to lead game-winning drives against the Eagles defense. Canning Washburn would have shown that the man responsible for coaching the worst unit on the defense would face the music. Instead, Juan Castillo went, despite his defense keeping the Eagles in 5 out of 6 games this season despite the holes the defensive line and offense have put them in all season.
Reid pressed the panic button today, and he sounded the alarm on the 2012 season. While I think Juan Castillo was an undeserving fall guy, I’m excited to see what Todd Bowles does while leading this defense. This was also a boom-or-bust move for Reid. If it pans out, he’ll be hailed as a genius and he’ll likely be back next year. If it fails, Reid will likely go down with the currently sinking ship that is the 2012 Eagles season, and he’ll likely take Michael Vick, Marty Mornhinweg, Jim Washburn, and Howie Roseman down with him. The firing of Castillo today is best summed up by Jason Bateman’s character Pepper Brooks in the movie Dodgeball: “Bold strategy Cotton, let’s see how it turns out”. While we don’t know the outcome yet, we do know one thing: this bye week just got a lot more interesting. By bucking all the trends that he’s shown over his 14 years of coaching the Eagles, Andy Reid just made sure the Eagles won’t have very many dull moments for the rest of the season. Whether that’s for better or for worse remains to be seen.