Speculation has been rampant for two weeks. Ever since the dismissal of Sean McDermott, we the media have thrown every name in the proverbial book out as potential successors to the successor of the late Jim Johnson.
Every name from Erin Andrews to Ziggy Stardust has been bandied about including the defensive staffs of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, Red Grange and the Master of Disaster, Apollo Creed. None of those names have been correct, nor were Mr. T (a.k.a. Clubber Lang), Rocky Balboa, Buddy Ryan or Danny DeVitto (from the cast of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”).
Head coach Andy Reid promoted offensive line coach Juan Castillo, a one-time USFL linebacker who’s never coached defense above the high school level. Castillo’s last coaching job on the defensive side of the football was at Kingsville High School in Texas from 1986 through 1989. Not just high school, but high school 22 years ago. Now that is a Herculean job of extricating a large mass from the nether regions of one’s posterior canal district!
Juan Castillo replaces former Jim Johnson disciple Sean McDermott, who was fired on Jan. 15 after two years running the Eagles’ defense for head
coach Andy Reid. At the time it sounded like the Eagles had a grand master plan to reinvent the defense. Once the Eagles proceeded to dismiss most of their defensive coaching staff and began to bring in notable names like Jim Washburn, it was thought that this grand master plan would include names like Fisher, Mora, Trgovac, Singletary, Ryan, Jauron, Wandstadt, Davis, Pees, Allen, Pettine, Babich, Thurman, Sneezy, Happy, Dopey and Doc. Snow White was not interviewed.
What we don’t know is where all of these choices had been ranked. Was Allen (who was interviewed) a first choice or a smoke screen? How serious was the team about all of the Super Bowl assistants (Tim Hauck, Todd Bowles, Winston Moss, Ray Horton) who they knew would be unapproachable until after the Big Game Sunday?
“Great move by Coach Reid. Juan is a football junkie who has always studied the entire game,” Rams head coach (and former Eagles assistant under Jim Johnson) Steve Spagnuolo said. “He’s a detailed, aggressive, and passionate football coach — all attributes vital to coaching defense.”
Castillo is entering his 17th year with the Eagles. He was hired in 1995 by head coach Ray Rhodes and spent two years as an entry-level offensive assistant and one year as tight ends coach before becoming the offensive line coach in 1998. During his 13 years as offensive line coach, the Eagles had their first five Pro Bowl linemen since Stan Walters in the 1980s — Jermane Mayberry, Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Shawn Andrews and Jason Peters.
“I have a strong affinity for Juan going back to our days spent together in Philadelphia,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier (also a former Johnson assistant) said in a statement released by the Eagles. “I can remember Jim Johnson and our defensive staff putting our game plans together and we’d always get together with Juan just to make sure they were sound in terms of pressures and blitzes. Sometimes, I felt like he was on our defensive staff. And to do this day, he and I talk every week during the season to talk about other offenses in the league. That’s how much respect I have for him as a coach and how well he is able to understand the defensive schemes. I’m so excited that’s he’s going to be able to put those ideas to work for himself as the defensive coordinator in Philly. Andy Reid made a great choice.”
The Eagles had interviewed three secondary coaches — Dennis Allen of the Saints, who became defensive coordinator of the Broncos, Jon Hoke of the Bears and Joe Woods of the Vikings. Conventional wisdom said they were waiting to hire one of those interviewed or perhaps defensive coaches from the Steelers or Vikings ( Moss, Horton or Mike Trgovac). Originally Dick Jauron was under consideration but he was allowed to interview for the defensive coordinator position with Cleveland – which he took after just one season as secondary coach in Philadelphia.
Was all of this a diversionary tactic to fool the media or had the team really not decided their course of action? Whatever the impetus, Reid made one of the most bewildering moves of his 12-year career with the Eagles, hiring from within and from the opposite side of the football.
“Congrats to Juan Castillo!” guard Todd Herremans commented. “He’s worked hard and earned it. I hope the defense is ready to work!”
Castillo was a college linebacker at Texas A&I, which later became Texas Kingsville, and he began his coaching career at Kingsville in 1990, where he remained as offensive line coach until Rhodes brought him to Philadelphia after he replaced Rich Kotite.
When Reid replaced Rhodes, he planned to get rid of Castillo, but Castillo drove through a blizzard from Philadelphia to Green Bay to campaign for a job, and Reid decided to keep him.
“I don’t know if I have seen anyone any more committed as a coach in this league than him. I was able to call on him so many times to understand how certain offenses worked and attacked. His knowledge of the game is very, very extensive, and I consider him a mentor of mine in Philadelphia while I was working under Jim Johnson. He prides himself in his work ethic, which I know he got from his mother. More importantly, he’s a dedicated father, husband and friend and just a top notch person.”
The Eagles hired 68-year-old veteran line coach Howard Mudd to replace Castillo as the Eagles’ offensive line coach. Mudd has held several NFL jobs, most recently as line coach with the Colts from 1998 through 2009. During that 12-year span, the Colts allowed 227 sacks — fewer than 20 per year and more than 100 fewer than any other NFL team.
Now that most of the major players are in place, they need to devise a draft strategy. Will the defense play in a 3-4 and draft linebacker heavy or do they address offensive line and cornerback issues? Until the CBA is resolved, player movement between teams via trade and free agency will likely be slowed to a cautionary crawl. This should prove intriguing at the very least.
Dick Vermeil who coached the Eagles to Super Bowl XV (in 1980) and 19 years later won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams, said in a radio interview Thursday he has no doubt that Juan Castillo will succeed in his new role. Vermeil has always been a big fan of Andy Reid and is a staunch supporter of Reid’s decision to move Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to Eagles’ new defensive coordinator.
“He’s a fine fine coach and a great teacher, and I’ve watched him work on the field, and Andy knows … the kind of person he is, the kind of teacher he is, the kind of (attention) to detail he has, and the understanding he has of defense,” Vermeil said in an interview on 610 WIP radio.
RELATED ARTICLE: Eagles Nest Defensive Line Coach http://prosportsblogging.com/city/philadelphia/eagles-eye-defensive-line-coach/
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org