Firing the offensive line wasn't an option, and Michael Vick makes $16 million per year. That's the primary reason why the Philadelphia Eagles relieved defensive coordinator Juan Castillo of his duties Tuesday, a move confirmed by the team via a press release.
Andy Reid hinted Monday that change was needed, and few observers would disagree. Unfortunately, the majority of the necessary changes couldn't easily be made during the season. Ousting Castillo was the only way in which Reid could send a message to his struggling team without ruffling the feathers so much that it would further jeopardize a season already on the verge of disaster.
By no means is Castillo a sacrificial lamb. He was responsible for one of the league's most talented defenses, and that unit—fueled by one of the fiercest pass rushes in football—had failed to register a sack in three consecutive games.
Castillo's defense gave up 253 yards and 17 points in the fourth quarter against Detroit, blowing a 10-point lead in the final four minutes. That came one week after they allowed Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to end a game with a 14-play, six-and-a-half-minute drive to set up a walk-off field goal from Shaun Suisham.
On a per-snap basis, no cornerback in football gave up more yards in slot coverage than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last season (according to Pro Football Focus), so it almost seemed as though Castillo was committing career suicide by suddenly putting DRC on Calvin Johnson in the slot in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Up to that point, Nnamdi Asomugha had done a stellar job on Johnson, but Megatron exploded as the Eagles adjusted and began mixing up coverages and dialing up blitzes down the stretch—a classic example of an in-over-his-head defensive coordinator over-thinking things.
The Eagles have failed to win for a multitude of reasons. They have 17 turnovers on offense, while no other team in the NFC has more than 12. PFF rates their pass-blocking 28th in the league. Vick has underperformed and owns by far the lowest passer rating in the division.
But again, there's only so much Reid can do about those problems right now. A move to Nick Foles at quarterback isn't out of the question in the near future, but this is a less drastic, much more safe measure.
Reid is admitting he made a mistake here. He never should have handed the defensive keys to Castillo, who was under-qualified for the job and only survived a deer-in-headlights 2011 season because the lockout provided an excuse.
Was firing Juan Castillo the right move?
Might replacement Todd Bowles do a better job calling plays? Absolutely. The longtime defensive backs coach has the experience to get more out of this defense. Any improvement means this was the right move.
But Castillo had nothing to do with those 17 turnovers, and Bowles certainly won't change the way in which running back LeSean McCoy is utilized (rather poorly thus far, to nobody's surprise). Neither Castillo nor Bowles had/have anything to do with Michael Vick's inability to make good decisions or the offensive line's vulnerability against pressure.
For the Eagles to come out of the bye week and finally put it together, it'll take more than just a new attitude on defense. Philadelphia might benefit from this move, but the team still has myriad adjustments to make on the run.
The key now is to continue to be proactive in attempts to make those adjustments. If instead they choose to believe that their problems are now solved, they'll be no better than Kevin Bacon's character in Animal House.
(Hat tip on the Animal House video to my colleague Andrew Garda)