Was This Andy's Plan for Bowles?
A day later, the thing I can't get over RE the Juan Castillo firing is this: If Michael Vick's third-and-four pass to Jeremy Maclin hadn't been batted down with a little more than two minutes left in Sunday's loss to Detroit, the Eagles would have won, and I'm pretty sure Castillo would still be the Eagles' defensive coordinator. If Brent Celek hadn't been called for offensive pass interference, and the Birds had scored a TD instead of a field goal with 4:32 left in the third quarter, they probably would have won, and I'm pretty sure Castillo would still be the defensive coordinator.
Nobody fires the defensive coordinator at 4-2, when the defense keyed at least two of the four wins. Andy Reid would tell you it wasn't down to Sunday, that he saw trends reemerging from last season -- basically, adroit offensive coordinators outflanking Castillo when it mattered.
The problem is, everybody else in the world pegged this as a fatal trend last year. Saw it happening enough to know Reid's idea that Castillo could run an NFL defense because he used to talk strategy with Jim Johnson was absurdly naive and unworkable, bizarrely so for a head coach who prides himself on building his decisions on detailed background work. By the middle of last season, people around the team were pretty open with their belief that Castillo was in way over his head. Despite the four straight wins at the end of the year, I sure didn't expect Reid to keep Castillo in charge. I figured Juan, loyal, and earnest, would get some sort of fancy title, and somebody like Todd Bowles would come in to run the D.
it's almost as if Reid knew this day was coming last January, brought Bowles in, gave him time to get a feel for the team and the situation, then put him in charge as soon as the bye week arrived, the only in-season breathing room an NFL team gets. Bowles and Reid vigorously denied the existence of any plan along those lines Tuesday. Maybe it wasn't a "plan," exactly, but I can't believe Reid, who isn't crazy or dumb, sat down after last season, reviewed all the games, and convinced himself Castillo was going to be just fine if he brought in a little experienced help.
Andy has been in the NFL a long time. It doesn't work that way, that the guy calling the shots for the defense, making split-second decisions, is going to be saved by the presence of a more experienced subordinate. That setup might help during the week, but on gameday, with the play clock ticking and the crowd roaring? There aren't a lot of extended discussions.
I think, at minimum, Reid went into the season knowing he had this move in his back pocket, ready to pull it out like a red challenge flag, at the first sign of trouble. But the thing about a challenge flag is, you're trying to win on appeal, after something already didn't go right. Lots of times, you're, say, trying to get a ruling on a fumble overturned, but the carelessness that led to the fumble should never have happened.
That's what Tuesday's decision was, an attempt to wipe out a mistake that never should have been made, that at the very least could and should have been corrected nine months ago.
It was a belated gesture, and quite possibly a futile one.
The Eagles are working out Chris Williams, the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft who was cut by the Bears Tuesday. Since the Bears run a pretty good operation, and don't go around cutting potential Pro Bowlers, Williams probably isn't the savior of the Eagles' o-line, but he could add depth and flexibility. After the past two weeks, if I were Andy Reid and Howard Mudd, I'd be looking at how I might redeploy some chess pieces. Could you move Todd Herremans to left tackle, if you had a viable right tackle? Say, the rookie Dennis Kelly, or maybe Williams, or even Evan Mathis, if you thought Williams could play guard?
And, by the way, Jamaal Jackson could come off his couch and give a better accounting of himself at center than Dallas Reynolds gave Sunday. Not snapping the ball while the QB is realigning his wideouts is Job 1. Not getting tossed into the backfield like a sack of potatoes is Job 2. Whatever fancy dance-step footwork Mudd requires oughta be, like, Job 3. If you ask me.