EAGLES PRESIDENT Joe Banner was spied from a distance, zipping through the corridor outside the locker room yesterday afternoon, returning from having been treated by the training staff for a healing wrist ligament injury. As Banner strode back to his office, foiling any attempt to close a 10-yard gap between himself and several reporters, he joked back and forth over his shoulder about going on injured reserve.
This clearly was not going to be an opportunity to discuss the future of Eagles coach Andy Reid or defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
Should it have been? Eagles players interviewed yesterday seemed to assume that Reid and even Castillo will return in 2012. Would it help the focus of the team to have that confirmed by upper management - should Banner or chairman Jeffrey Lurie have stood up by now and put the Reid speculation to rest, at least, if not the Castillo question?
"I think that's pretty far-fetched, for the players, anyway," right tackle Todd Herremans said, when asked if Eagles players wonder what will happen with Reid. "I don't know anybody else, how they look at it, but I don't think the players are even kicking it around in their head."
Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said everyone has enough to think about with the Washington Redskins visiting for the season finale - which was pretty much what Reid said when the subject was broached Monday, and what quarterback Michael Vick said yesterday.
"I hope I get a chance to play with coach Reid again, he's a great coach," Jenkins said. "It's something you can't really speculate too much on because it's not in your control."
There was a report Tuesday from the San Diego Union-Tribune that cited league sources, stating St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo would return to the Eagles to replace Castillo. Spagnuolo was an Eagles defensive assistant under Jim Johnson from 1999-2006.
"You hear about it. You've got guys on social networks, your family, they're going to be watching all the media shows and whatnot that's on TV," middle linebacker Jamar Chaney said. "You hear about it, but you don't let it get into your head; we've got one more game to play . . . We've got to make sure we just focus on the Redskins. After that, it's up to the front office and whoever controls all that."
Of course, the Eagles are not allowed to have any contact with Spagnuolo right now, and it isn't at all clear that he wants to come back here if he is fired in St. Louis. Spagnuolo was asked yesterday about the report, when he was on a conference call with San Francisco-area reporters. (The Rams play the 49ers this week.) Spagnuolo said he was unaware of it, and that he was "focused on the now."
Chaney and other Eagles interviewed didn't seem to think Castillo will be replaced, while acknowledging that he had a steep learning curve this season, transitioning from offensive line coach.
"Juan's done a great job," Chaney said. "When you have the talent we have on defense, [blame] shouldn't be all placed on him. It's got to be placed on the players out there playing the game . . . As the season's gone on, he's gotten better at what he does, we've gotten better at what we do. When you keep getting that experience, a hard worker like him ain't going to do nothing but get better."
Defensive end Darryl Tapp said: "I think Juan's doing a good job. I think Juan's getting better each week. For a defensive coordinator, or any coach, I'd imagine, it's tough - it's real easy to call plays in practice, when there's really not any pressure or anything like that. It's a lot different calling those games, in a high-pressure situation. That's something you could see him getting a lot more comfortable with as the season progressed."
As for Reid, Tapp said: "I think coach Reid would have to have, like, 3 to 5 years where the team was just [hiss] poor and you could tell guys were quitting on him for that to happen. That man has done way too much for this organization, this team and this city for me to ever even envision that happening."
Defensive end Jason Babin talked again about how he feels the defense is coming together, having allowed 36 total points over the past three games, all wins.
"We're gelling. When you see guys on the back end, linebackers, making plays, everyone's happy for all those different guys making plays," Babin said.
Asked if he wants Castillo back, Babin said: "Absolutely."
Would he like to know that for sure, regarding Reid and Castillo?
"I don't think, from the players' point of view, there's that big a question mark," Babin said. "I know you media guys have a big question mark, but for us, it seems to be pretty simple."
Of course, unlike exasperated fans (and some media folk), the players haven't experienced all the triumphs and frustrations of Reid's 13-year tenure. None of Sunday's projected Eagles starters arrived before 2005. It isn't mysterious that they would prefer patience; Reid brought them here. He handles them with dignity, carefully avoiding the public placement of any specific blame.
"We all love coach Reid," wideout Jeremy Maclin said. "Coach Reid's a great coach, a great person to be around. There's a reason why he's the longest-tenured coach in football right now. I've got the utmost respect for him and I love playing for him."
Left guard Evan Mathis, given a chance to start this season after bouncing from Carolina to Miami to Cincinnati, said: "I'm not wondering. I'm not thinking they're going to get rid of him. I don't think it would be a smart move to get rid of him."
Of course, in addition to Castillo, Reid's future might tie in with that of 69-year-old offensive line coach Howard Mudd, whom Reid lured out of retirement this season. Mudd underwent a hip replacement during the bye week and still gets around at practice using a cart and a cane.
"I haven't asked him yet. I need to ask him that," Mathis said, when asked if he thought Mudd would return. "He's a tough SOB. He has his cart and his cane. That's all he needs."