If we learned anything this week, it is this: Andy Reid is still head coach of the Eagles only because Andy Reid is not his boss.

The Reid who evaluates his own underlings is merciless and matter-of-fact. If a player is on the downside, if his salary is too high for what he still brings to the roster, if a coach or a scout or a general manager isn't getting it done - boom, they are gone. Done. Finished. Thanks for the memories.

Donovan McNabb? Sean McDermott? Tom Heckert? Brian Dawkins? Tom Modrak?

Gone and gone and gone and gone and gone.

Juan Castillo? Gone, Castillo.

Andy Reid? Still here. The difference? He is held to Jeffrey Lurie's standards, not his own. Lurie has allowed Reid to elbow out anyone who threatened his authority: Modrak had to go. A decade later, Joe Banner had to go. Lurie has stood by as Reid hired and fired assistants and personnel men and players. All the while, the Eagles have slipped from NFC royalty to playoff also-ran to .500 ball club.

The whole Castillo affair illustrates the reasons for this decline.

When the Eagles were really good under Reid, his defense was run by Jim Johnson. That's because back in 1999, when he was a young, relative unknown trying to build a winning staff, Reid hired the best people he could get for the most important jobs.

By 2009, when Johnson was forced to step back because of the cancer that eventually claimed him, Reid was the czar of the NovaCare Complex. Because of the timing, but also because he believed his program was so strong it didn't much matter, he promoted McDermott to replace Johnson. After two seasons, he fired McDermott.

Did he learn anything? No. Once again, instead of getting the best and most qualified candidate for the job, Reid handed it to Castillo. One way he justified it was to cite Castillo's relationship with the late Johnson. The two used to discuss blocking schemes and how to attack them, Reid said.

It was pure smoke. Anyone who knew Johnson - and I did, for more than a decade - knew how little this football lifer cared for smoke and nonsense. Handing a precious NFL coordinator's job to an unqualified candidate would have rankled Johnson, who paid his own dues for decades before getting that opportunity.

To make matters worse, Reid and Castillo talked about how he could become a competent defensive coordinator in record time by outworking everyone else. That was a slap in the face of every coach in the league. They all work hard. They all work ridiculous hours. There was little to gain by insulting them.

Worst of all, players understand all of this better than anyone. During that first training camp under Castillo in 2011, I wrote that his gung-ho style - running around, head-butting players - could go one of two ways: "Time will tell whether all that energy is contagious or comical to those who matter most, the players," is how I put it in August 2011.

When you're hearing now that Castillo never really won the players' respect, you have your answer. But that goes back to how he got the job. The players know the genuine article - Jim Johnson, Dick LeBeau, Wade Phillips - from the counterfeit. They knew Reid handed the most important job on his staff to someone who hadn't earned it, and Reid should have anticipated that from the beginning.

Asante Samuel was the first to bristle and he was the first to go. When other players followed suit - namely, Nnamdi Asomugha - Reid had to admit one of two mistakes. Either he had the wrong players, which would mean a complete disaster, or he had the wrong man leading them. He went with the easier fix.

Much was made Tuesday of Reid's language about Michael Vick and Marty Mornhinweg. He said Vick was the starting quarterback "as I stand here," opening up speculation that the next bombshell might take out the turnover-prone QB. Mornhinweg's role as offensive coordinator and play-caller of a unit that averages 17 points per game was also supposedly under review.

Reid no doubt did think about more moves of that nature. But not for very long. His language really served to create the illusion that everyone around his kingdom is subject to the same high standards. The reality is quite different, starting with the king himself.

It had become expedient for Reid to jettison Castillo. He admitted that mistake only because it was so embarrassingly obvious that he had no choice.

It is not yet time for Vick and Mornhinweg to follow Castillo and that long list of others down the plank. They still have value as future sacrifices for Reid to offer to Lurie as human excuses for another lost season.