No one officially on the inside at Eagles Central, NovaCare Nation will divulge details but rumorologists, speculatists and media mongers can’t wait the extra week to start drooling over coaching options for 2012.
Most can agree that some sort of change must occur, very likely involving curtailing the duties of current defensive coordinator Juan Castillo or installing a new defensive coordinator from outside the Eagles system.
The former would end Andy Reid’s Great Protégé Experiment while the latter would provide the organization a face-saving measure without having to overhaul or dismiss the longest-tenured NFL Head Coach or his very seasoned staff.
Reid had been widely criticized for promoting offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator (which had never occurred in NFL history) when Reid assured the media and team ownership that there were no more qualified candidates. Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd were brought in to shore up the support staff but Castillo would be calling defensive plays. Castillo’s promotion may have been Reid’s way of paying it forward as Reid had been a QB Coach in Green Bay prior to being named the Philadelphia Eagles head coach following the 1998 NFL season. Skipping the coordinator level entirely is something that even Reid’s critics rarely mention all these years later.
Former Jim Johnson pupil Sean McDermott departed as the scapegoat after two seasons (took the defensive coordinator job in Carolina with fellow Johnson disciple Ron Rivera), while Reid was in denial about how desperately he missed the departed Johnson.
Leslie Frazier was named head coach in Minnesota after an interim stint. Steve Spagnuolo was the head Ram in St. Louis and Jon Harbaugh once prowled the sidelines as an Eagles Special Teams coach prior to taking the reins in Baltimore. Rivera had been a successful defensive guru in San Diego and Chicago while Reid allowed both Pat Shurmur and Dick Jauron to take jobs in Cleveland (dismissing Bill Shuey and Rory Seagrest along with them). Former Reid coaching tree prodigies all, but Reid decided early to stand behind his choice, the only coach, assistant or player more tenured (17 seasons) than Reid himself.
Most of the defensive staff was overhauled to be helmed by Juan Castillo for 2011. The result was Philadelphia leading the league with 36 turnovers and five blown fourth quarter leads, allowing an average of 210 opposing passing yards per game (8th) and 111.4 rushing yards per game (14th). They sport a 14-24 INT deficit, 49-30 sack differential and spent millions of dollars in free agency for Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins (plus the Kevin Kolb trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie).
All that yet they allowed the linebacking core and safeties to be dominated by second-year players and rookies. Pundits, fans and media alike will often point to the waste of funds on lackluster players like Vince Young, Steve Smith and Ronnie Brown including them with Brandon Graham, Nate Allen, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, DeSean Jackson and Jaiquawn Jarrett as those with unsecure Eagles futures.
Defensive coordinator names such as Todd Bowles, Mike Trgovac, Dennis Allen and Dean Pees had been bandied about in the media but none were seriously considered by Reid (at least not publicly).
We don’t know how many invitations were turned down due to Reid’s precarious position on the verge of either winning a championship or causing his own demise. Allen interviewed with the Eagles on his way from New Orleans to take the DC job in Denver while Trgovac cited family reasons (http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/01/25/wanted-defensive-coordinator-apply-within/) for not considering the position.
Despite Spagnuolo’s success with the Super Bowl Giants (defensive coordinator after departing the Eagles), the moribund St. Louis franchise continues to struggle one decade after the Greatest Show on Turf.
Would Spagnuolo consider returning to the Eagles nest? Would he be a fool not to return to a team that might make a Super Bowl run (according to the PR department) in 2012? Would Spagnuolo be a fool to trade the $4 million remaining on his 2012 contract for a defensive coordinator’s salary?
Having Steve Spagnuolo return to the Eagles as defensive coordinator would be ideal for both Reid and the organization. Given his tie to the successful Jim Johnson-defense Eagles of the previous decade and the struggles in recent years (most pronouncedly the past two seasons under Sean McDermott and Juan Castillo) the timing could not be better – for the Eagles. For Spagnolo it may be a question of whether he wants to have a job in football or be paid $4 million to stay on the Rams payroll from the comfort of his own home.
Perhaps the question is HOW should Spagnuolo return to Philadelpha? As a successful Super Bowl (XLII)-winning defensive coordinator (NYG January 2007-January 2009) or fresh from a failed three-year run attempting to rescue the St. Louis Rams from oblivion (10-38).
“Spags” passed on the Washington Redskins job in 2008 and had been considered for vacancies in Denver, Detroit and New York (Jets) but chose St. Louis as a franchise that he could place his stamp on with significant roster overhaul, lots of cap room and very good draft prospects. Spagnuolo leaves the Rams better than he found them, having installed a solid defensive core, the rudiments of a sound philosophy and the most salary cap space in the NFL. They also boast Sam Bradford and some of the best defensive players you’ve never heard of… not yet at least!
Spagnuolo had cut his coaching teeth under the tutelage of Jim Johnson serving as the linebackers and defensive backs coach during several of Philadelphia’s most successful years (1999-2007). He shares with his departed mentor a similar blitz-happy aggressive defensive philosophy favoring a smaller, faster defensive line and 4-3 scheme for more attacking options.
This philosophy proved successful, with the Giants leading the NFL in sacks in 2007. During Super Bowl XLII, Spagnuolo’s defense sacked Tom Brady five times, the most times he had been sacked in any game that season. Clearly Spagnuolo is the proper fit for an Eagles team in desperate need of a defensive upgrade.
Pride could be a factor in any of several ways. Does Steve Spagnuolo want to return as a deposed head coach to a team where he had been an assistant or should he seek other head coaching vacancies?
Would Marty Mornhinweg (current assistant head coach and Reid’s loyal offensive coordinator since 2006 when Brad Childress left for Minnesota) be amenable to rescinding some of his influence so that Spagnuolo might be brought in as Reid’s potential successor?
Spagnuolo can look around the league to find vacancies in Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami and very likely Tampa Bay or San Diego? Would those scenarios appeal more to Spagnuolo – taking over tough defensive teams that require serious retooling or might he hold out for defensive coordinator openings in locales such as Baltimore, New York, Kansas City or even… Dallas?
There is one week remaining in the Eagles and Rams 2011 season and the winds of change blow strong in both cities. Philadelphia hopes to salvage an 8-8 season in time for the Mummers Parade so as to justify retaining Reid and retooling what remains of the preseason “Dream Team.” St. Louis will become part of this game of front office musical chairs, which could potentially include former Eagles assistant and current ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden.
Spagnuolo would be the first proverbial domino to fall, replaced in St. Louis by Gruden or Jeff Fisher. Spagnuolo would be well-served returning to his more successful role as defensive coordinator and taking a lesson from former Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg to join Andy Reid’s staff.
Perhaps former Eagles defensive assistant (under Buddy Ryan) and former Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher gets involved? While we’re at it, what happens with the likes of Tony Sporano, Raheem Morris, Romeo Crenell, Norv Turner, Todd Bowles, Dean Pees, Jack Del Rio, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy?
Does anyone have a phone number for Ray Rhodes, Rich Kotite or Dick Vermeil? Maybe the Ryan brothers (Rex and Rob) will both be out of jobs in 2012 and Buddy makes it a family affair at Lincoln Financial Field or down in Texas? Why not Spagnuolo in Philadelphia? Why not indeed?
Nightmare (Not) on Broad Street http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/12/26/nightmare-on-broad-street/
A Tree Grows on Broad Street http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2010/12/29/a-tree-grows-on-broad-street/
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