Given the chance to heap all kinds of praise on Juan Castillo, to endorse his defensive coordinator for next season's campaign, Eagles coach Andy Reid on Monday offered mild support for his longtime assistant.
Considering how quickly things turn in the NFL and how the recent success of Castillo's unit would be meaningless if the Eagles reverted to form in the final two games of the season, Reid's response made sense.
Reminded of questions he was asked about promoting Castillo after losses this season, Reid avoided looking ahead.
"I think everybody's getting better every week. That's what I think. That's where I'm at," Reid told reporters a day after the Eagles kept their playoff hopes alive with a 45-19 win over the New York Jets. "You guys all know how I feel about Juan; I don't think that's new news."
Indeed, Reid has spent the better part of the season defending Castillo. But now that the defense is playing close to the level many expected, Reid stopped short of saying Castillo would be back next season.
For one, that may not be Reid's decision, even if he returns, as many expect at this point. Two weeks ago, there was a report that Reid would have to ax Castillo after the season if he were to keep his own job. But that may have been premature, especially with the playoffs suddenly not a pipe dream.
Four things have to happen for the Eagles to sneak in and win the NFC East. They have to win at Dallas on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. and then against Washington the following week. The New York Giants must lose to the Jets on Saturday and beat the Cowboys in their season finale.
A Giants win over the Jets means the Eagles are done.
"I'm a huge Jets fan this week," Reid said.
Even if the Eagles are eliminated, Castillo's defense likely needs a strong showing in the final two games to maintain the faith of the front office. The Eagles' two consecutive wins over the Dolphins and Jets can largely be credited to Castillo's unit.
The defense has forced seven turnovers, allowed just 14.5 points per game, racked up 13 sacks, surrendered just 222.5 yards, and held opposing offenses to just three touchdowns on eight red-zone trips over that span.
Miami and New York - ranked 21st and 26th, respectively, in total offense - are not to be confused with New England. But the players said subtle changes by Castillo are paying off. One is the simplification of their zone defenses.
"We've been used to doing some matchup-zone stuff in the past, at least early on in the season, and it's gotten us [burned] a little bit," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said Sunday.
Instead, Castillo is implementing coverages - such as 4-3 quarters zone or regular cover-2 - that his players "have known since high school," Asomugha said.
Perhaps most impressive, Castillo has not lost the confidence of his players, many of whom were learning the new defense along with him. If they can maintain the effort of the last two games - even if the playoffs slip away - and finish strong, Castillo may not even need Reid's public support.
"He's been consistent. He's not afraid to admit a problem and fix the problem," Reid said. "He's not hiding from anything."