After 22 underachieving games since the start of 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles have finally fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and given the job to defensive backs coach Todd Bowles. Castillo is an excellent football mind who was an offensive line coach for the Eagles for a number of years, but Andy Reid's decision to promote Castillo to the other side of the ball last season was downright perplexing.
It ranked up there with Reid bringing in Michael Vick off the street in 2009 or trading Donovan McNabb within the NFC East in 2010, and it seemed like it was Reid's way of showing the world he is a good enough coach that he can make anyone the defensive coordinator.
The move predictably backfired, with Castillo's unit blowing fourth-quarter leads against Atlanta in Week 2 of 2011, the New York Giants in Week 3 and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4. Any one of those games could have put the eventual 8-8 Eagles into the playoffs (and kept the Giants out).
Castillo's defense improved down the stretch, but then again, how couldn't it? The Eagles won four straight games to close out the season, beating up on quarterbacks named Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Rex Grossman and Stephen McGee.
It seemed obvious Reid would right his wrong during the offseason by firing Castillo, but he made no motion to do so, and even a press conference from owner Jeffrey Lurie in which he called the season "extremely disappointing" led to no significant changes on the coaching staff.
The Eagles—after adding Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a year before—added even more talent this past offseason. They solidified a horrendous linebacker corps by trading for two-time Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans, and spending high draft picks on pass-rushing specialists Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and play-making linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Once again, the talent was in place, and there were no excuses.
The Eagles started the season strong enough, shutting down rookie first-round picks Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson collectively, coming up big late in the game against Joe Flacco and holding Eli Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion Giants to just 14 points.
But the sacks weren't coming, and the sackless streak has now reached 13 consecutive quarters. The Eagles rank 13th in the NFL in scoring defense, but the final straw for Reid may have been the defense blowing a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining to the Detroit Lions this past Sunday.
Realistically, the Eagles won't miss a beat without Castillo; in fact, he was probably the third-most important coach on the defense behind defensive line coach Jim Washburn (who better start showing some improvement) and secondary coach Bowles. The firing was more of a message to the fans and the rest of the coaches than anything, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and special teams coach Bobby April better hope they aren't the next moves Reid makes.
Reid knows this season could easily be his last with the team if he doesn't show any significant results. A 10-6 season and a wild-card loss won't cut it, which is why Reid couldn't have Castillo holding back the defense any longer.
What's surprising is that Reid actually admitted a mistake he made in firing Castillo, and it may say something that this is the first time in 14 years Reid has ever fired a coach midseason. After all, this is the same man that kept Jerome McDougle, L.J. Smith and Reggie Brown long after their prime, even when it was clear they were failed draft picks.
The Eagles are 3-3 and just one game back of a Giants team they beat earlier this season, and they have two weeks to prepare for Atlanta before the schedule gets a lot easier in the second half. There are 10 games left for Reid to get this team back on track or he won't have to fire anyone—he'll be the one getting canned.