Yesterday, Castillo, 51, got the defensive coordinator job. Reid coaxed Howard Mudd, 68, out of retirement to coach the offensive line.
So, this was Castillo's job to lose all along?
"I would tell you yes," Reid said.
Not so accomplished defensive assistant Dick Jauron, who landed with Cleveland as their defensive coordinator. Not Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and Saints secondary coach Dennis Allen, whom the Eagles interviewed; not Vikings defensive backs coach Joe Woods, whom they reportedly interviewed Monday. Not attractive Green Bay assistants Mike Trgovac and Winston Moss, who were unavailable to be interviewed until after Sunday, when they will coach in the Super Bowl.
"Obviously, I'm going to make sure that all of the bases are covered," Reid said.
Reid abruptly fired McDermott only 3 days after saying he would not be fired. Yesterday, he explained that his endorsement of McDermott, given the day after the Eagles' upset playoff loss to Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs, was premature.
"It's an emotional time. It's not a time to make a decision like that," Reid acknowledged. "I was able to step back, buy some time, and think."
Reid thought that he could persuade Mudd to rejoin the NFL after a year off. An NFL assistant since 1974, Mudd was the Colts' line coach for 12 years before he quit after the 2009 season. If Mudd would return, then, Reid figured, he could promote Castillo to defensive coordinator.
Reid indicated yesterday that he considered Castillo to replace innovative defensive coordinator Jim Johnson after Johnson died in 2009. After all, Castillo was a linebacker in college and in the USFL. His first two jobs as an assistant, at alma mater Texas A & M-Kingsville and at Kingsville High, were on the defensive side of the ball.
The tough conversion, Castillo said, was moving from defense to offensive line coach when he went back to his college team in 1990. Offensive line coach was the only spot open on the staff, Castillo said.
"Coaching the offensive line is probably the hardest thing I've had to do in my life," Castillo said.
"Juan has developed into the best offensive line coach in the National Football League," Reid gushed.
That's why he didn't make Castillo defensive coordinator earlier; he had no viable replacement.
Castillo certainly has a strong list of accomplishments. He developed a reputation as a top-flight teacher as he molded competent centers out of undrafted players such as Bubba Miller, Hank Fraley and Jamaal Jackson. The careers of tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan flourished under Castillo, and his taskmaster style helped sent guard Shawn Andrews to two Pro Bowls before injury sidelined Andrews' career.
Coaching a pod of 10 behemoths to competence does not necessarily translate into coaching 35 players on the other side of the ball into a "fast, physical, fundamentally sound" unit. Reid is taking a risk. It is Reid's second big risk in three seasons at this position: McDermott was a 35-year-old lifetime Eagles assistant when he got the job.
Then again, when owner Jeffrey Lurie hired Reid in 1999, Reid had never been a coordinator, much less a head coach. Reid isn't averse to risk, as along as, he said, it's "a secure risk."
Reid has always respected and rewarded passion, commitment and competence. Castillo has personified those traits to Reid.
In 1999, with Reid on the verge of being hired in Philadelphia, Castillo drove 10 hours through a snowstorm to lobby to keep his job coaching the Eagles' offensive line. Reid refused, at first, then, a couple of weeks later, after Castillo ambushed him in his new office on his second day as head coach, Reid reconsidered.
This time, Castillo spent 20 straight hours cramming for his interview. He and Reid then met for 5 hours Tuesday, beginning at 4:30.
That's 4:30 a.m.
It was not an unusual time for Castillo to be at work. He routinely arrives at the office at 4 a.m. He formed that habit working as a lowly offensive assistant with madman coordinator Jon Gruden; Gruden, who was in his first stint as a coordinator, believed he needed to work extra long to make up for his inexperience.
Castillo is convinced his experience makes him a perfectly logical choice to replace McDermott.
As a former defender and defensive coach, Castillo said he always considered himself miscast as an offensive line coach. As an offensive line coach, Castillo said he knows the tactics the offense will use to stop defenses, and therefore can better overcome them:
"I would tell [Reid], 'Man, if I ever got to coach on the other side, man, I'd be dangerous!' "
Castillo said he often jousted with Johnson as the pair reviewed tape. Johnson, he said, would come and ask whether a certain blitz would work, and, if not, why.
Castillo saw Johnson assistants Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, John Harbaugh and Steve Spagnuolo skyrocket to the top of the NFL coaching ranks and frequently asked Johnson whether he could join the defensive staff. Reid never allowed it.
Clearly, if Mudd had not unretired, Castillo again would be figuring out how to keep Michael Vick from grievous bodily harm.
Early Monday morning, Reid told Castillo he would interview him the next day. Castillo spent the next cycle of the clock detailing a defense that would mesh well with the aggressive style of new defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Castillo incorporated some of the tenets of Johnson's scheme.
"What I'm going to do is, the back end [of the defense] is going to complement those four defensive linemen that are getting upfield," Castillo said. He will drill his players daily to shed blocks and to tackle, working them mercilessly until proper technique becomes rote.
On Tuesday, in his interview, Castillo told Reid as much, in great detail.
Yesterday morning, Reid made Castillo the team's defensive coordinator.
Castillo inherits a defense as maligned recently as the offensive line was when he became its coach. The team's linebacker play has been lousy the past few seasons. The secondary suffered crippling departures in Brian Dawkins and Sheldon Brown. McDermott's legacy will be his defense's inability to defend the red zone.
Question marks abound: Can the small cornerbacks develop? Will promising, injured rookies Nate Allen and Brandon Graham return and contribute? Will Stewart Bradley return to the linebacker corps?
Those are big question marks.
Castillo probably is the biggest.
Howard Mudd is scheduled to meet the press Monday . . . Andy Reid appears poised to name former Eagles players Mike Zordich and Mike Caldwell as defensive backs coach and linebackers coach, respectively. Zordich has spent the past two seasons as a defensive quality control assistant, while Caldwell has been a defensive assistant for three seasons . . . Reid acknowledged that Juan Castillo's familiarity with the team's defensive terminology will help if there is a work stoppage in the NFL . . . Reid said he and Mudd knew each other from Reid's days as an assistant at the University of Missouri when Mudd was an assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs. Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg also grew to know Mudd as an assistant at Missouri. Castillo has been a Mudd disciple for years . . . Castillo indicated he was not a real candidate for any of the vacant coordinator positions with which he was connected: "I didn't have any opportunities." *