Reid's decision makes no sense

Andy Reid (left) put his job on the line in naming Juan Castillo.
Andy Reid (left) put his job on the line in naming Juan Castillo.
Posted: February 03, 2011

DALLAS - At first, the news seemed ridiculous. Juan Castillo would be the Eagles' new defensive coordinator? Must be a mistake.

Upon further reflection, and after hearing Andy Reid's explanation for the decision, the move makes even less sense. Indeed, the more you think about it, the less sense it makes. Every attempt to understand it just raises more questions.

Reid wants to give an opportunity to one of his loyal assistants as a reward for his years of intense hard work. But didn't he just do that with Sean McDermott? After the death of Jim Johnson two years ago, Reid could have gone out and found an established, qualified replacement. He stayed in-house, took a flyer on McDermott, and wound up crashing hard.

Lesson: Working hard isn't always enough. Being a loyal guy isn't always enough. Experience and ability matter, too.

We're now being told Castillo helped the defensive coaches. How is that a good thing? Didn't Reid just clean house on that side of the ball, and for cause? The defense wasn't very good.

This isn't the first time Reid has granted an assistant a job change in order to burnish his resumé. He did it for John Harbaugh a few years ago and Harbaugh is now a very good head coach in Baltimore. But Harbaugh went from special-teams coach - a coordinator-level job - to defensive-backs coach. He accepted less responsibility in order to work under Johnson and master a new area.

Castillo was a linebacker in college and in the old USFL. He was able to make himself into a good NFL offensive-line coach through hard work, smarts, football acumen, and people skills. There's no reason to think he couldn't transform himself into a good defensive coach the same way. If Reid had made him the linebackers coach and let him marinate in defensive strategy for a few years, that would have been unusual but hardly stunning.

This is stunning. This is unprecedented. Someone pointed out that Mike Nolan moved from wide-receivers coach to defensive coordinator in Baltimore in 2002. But Nolan had been a defensive coach, including a coordinator, for most of his career.

Reid compared the move to Mike Holmgren's trust in him during their tenure in Green Bay. But Reid was moved from tight-ends coach to quarterbacks coach. There were two people above him on the offensive staff, Holmgren and coordinator Sherman Lewis. Holmgren didn't give Reid a supervisory job that required him to do a bunch of tasks he'd never done before.

Coordinators devise game plans. They call plays, in real time. They make adjustments within games. They manage the dizzying personnel changes that are part of the modern game. Castillo may become very good at all of these things, but it's a simple fact that he hasn't done any of them yet. And now he's going to have to do them all under withering pressure.

There's a reason people don't do this. There are plenty of reasons people don't do this.

The only reason to do this is to prove you're smarter than anyone else. This is the same impulse that has Reid passing the ball 70 percent of the time despite - or because of - the criticism he receives for that fatally flawed philosophy. Anyone could have gone out and hired one of the many defensive assistants who have worked their way up and earned an opportunity like this. Where's the satisfaction in doing what everyone else would do?

The timing of this makes it especially puzzling. Reid has just completed his 12th season as head coach of the Eagles. He has made enormous changes in each of the last few years: signing Michael Vick, parting with Donovan McNabb, scrapping his plan to start Kevin Kolb, promoting Howie Roseman to GM, firing the strength and conditioning coaches, and now this.

There is nothing left to change except the head coach.

With this move, Reid has painted an enormous bull's-eye on his back. This was an enormously important decision for him, one he absolutely had to get right. There were sound, safe options available to him: Dick Jauron and Jim Mora were available. The Packers' and Steelers' staffs are stocked with up-and-coming young defensive coaches.

Any one of these coaches would have made sense. They would have given this team a chance to be strong enough on defense to compete for a championship.

Instead, Reid has taken the biggest possible risk. He has no margin for error and, frankly, he doesn't deserve one.

This is almost certainly the last major hire Reid will make as head coach of the Eagles. Either Castillo will succeed, in which case he'll keep the job for years to come, or he will fail, in which case Reid will have to take the fall.


Follow columnist Phil Sheridan on Twitter: @SheridanScribe. Read his blog at http:// go.philly.com/philabuster or his recent columns at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.

 

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