Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles head coach, fired his friend defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replaced him with secondary coach Todd Bowles on the Tuesday after the Eagles blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in their latest loss, a Sunday OT game with the Detroit Lions. This was a sad case of terrible timing that cost a man the job some thought he never should have been given in the first place.
Reid promoted Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator before the start of the 2011 season, a move that was heavily scrutinized and widely criticized. It's not a leap that is commonly made in the NFL, and at first, the Eagles defense looked to have proven all of Reid's critics right.
However, after 12 games of inconsistent mediocrity, the players seemed to settle into the scheme as the team rattled off four straight wins to finish out the 2011 season, falling one win short of a playoff berth. It seemed that, this year, the Eagles defense was picking up right where it left off, keeping teams from scoring in bunches and giving a supposed high-powered offense a chance to win games.
Yet still, Tuesday morning marked the end of the very brief Juan Castillo era in Philly. In what many are reading as a knee-jerk panic move to try to salvage his job, Reid let him go in a melancholy press conference in which he referred to Castillo as someone he cares about both as a person and a football coach.
This firing, however, is being almost as heavily scrutinized as the promoting of Castillo was. I myself am one of those critics.
I think that one of the main problems with the Philadelphia Eagles right now is that Reid believes Mike Vick is a master, elite passer, and that is not even close to what he is. This guy has never been a quality QB.
In Atlanta, he had the convenient excuse of not having anyone worthwhile to throw to, and his WR corp was so bad that you really couldn't argue that. Now, he has a solid, talented group of pass-catchers, yet he's still a sub-60 percent passer. In fact, 2010 was the only season that he completed more than 60 percent of his passes.
He played exceptionally well in 2010, but apart from that, he's about as unreliable as any one QB could be. He's capable of having great games in the form of big-play TDs, but more commonly, his biggest plays have benefited the opposing defense.
Over the course of his career, he's had a combined 165 int/fumbles (80/85) to only 153 passing/rushing TDs (34/119). With the exceptions of 2002 and 2010—his first full seasons as a starter with Atlanta and Philly—every season during which he's thrown more than 13 passes, he's at least matched his total INT/FUMs with his combined TDs.
His M.O. seems to be 1) catch everyone off-guard with his shock-and-awe style for a year 2) defenses get wise to his act 3) his act gets old and 4) he's brought back to earth HARD.
As if Vick's shaky play wasn't reason enough to cut bait, he has durability issues. Only once did Vick play a complete 16-game season (2006, missed playoffs). So when you really look at it, he's never been a good QB.
He's even more of a liability now than he was before. At least when he was in Atlanta, he was young with a high ceiling and time to improve. Now, he's an inaccurate over-30 QB with a turnover problem who has plateaued and can't stay on the field.
The Eagles defense is one of the few things that has actually improved. The longer the system was in place, the more it seemed to gain effectiveness. It currently ranks 13th in points allowed, 12th in yards given up and ninth in first downs surrendered.
That's all while the offense has given opponents multiple extra possessions in all but one game. Only the Chiefs have turned the ball over more times, and only the Jaguars have scored less points than the Eagles have this season.
They barely run the ball, despite having one of the most explosive and versatile backs in the league in LeSean McCoy. He's gone over 20 carries three times this season, and go figure, those are the three games that they won. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Andy Reid is too stubborn in his game plan to utilize the weapons he has. I guess he figures for what he's paying Vick, he might as well get his money's worth, but again, that's just a guess. I can't think of any other reason that he'd have a QB with a career completion percentage of 56.3 throw the ball just a shade under 39 times per game.
The Eagles problems are many, to be certain, but the least of them up to this point of the season has been the defense. They've been keeping most teams in check long enough for the offense to muster up a TD late in the game to take the lead. They basically did their job against the Lions, too, but the Eagles offense turned the ball over three times to Detroit's one.
Also, the Andy Reid-led Eagles stayed true to losing form, handing the ball to McCoy only 14 times to Vick's 46 pass attempts. It almost seems like Reid just panics if the running game doesn't gash teams right off the bat and just abandons the run, even in games in which his team has a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
There's a good chance that if Reid would have handed the ball to McCoy a few more times in the fourth quarter, Castillo still has a job today. McCoy carried the ball once in the entire quarter while Vick threw a pick early in the quarter.
On 3rd-and-4 with under three minutes to play, Vick threw an incomplete pass to stop the clock before punting, rather than giving the ball to McCoy who may or may not have kept the drive alive but would have certainly kept the clock running or forced a Detroit timeout.
Instead, the Lions got the ball back with just 2:27 on the game clock and two timeouts and drove down the field, kicking a field goal to tie the game with just seconds remaining on the clock. The Eagles defense stopped the Lions from getting in the end zone, despite having to defend nine plays backed up inside their own 5-yard line.
In OT, the defense was set up for failure by an Eagles' drive yielding minus-21 yards. McCoy had no carries on the drive that ended in a three-and-out and led to a punt from their own end zone after Vick was sacked twice, both on first and second down.
This is the scenario that led to the changing of the guard at the defensive coordinator position.
If Andy is looking for a scapegoat—and let's face it, that's not an uncommon school of thought—he's looking on the wrong side of the ball.