Bill Lyon: A tale of two coaches: Bradley and Castillo

Tom Bradley
Tom Bradley
Posted: January 08, 2012

The one got assigned the dirty work, the job everyone else ran away from, the shovel behind the elephants in the circus parade.

Darkness and despair descended on the Valley of Happy, and it will be a long, long time before the aftershocks cease, and in the interim someone had to hold things together.

Volunteers? Any one?

Thank you, Tom Bradley.

The other got crammed into a position of utter hopelessness. He was guaranteed to fail because what they were asking him to do hadn't been done ever and why do you suppose that was?

Andy Reid said tut-tut, we know better. Pay no mind to the naysayers. We are smarter and we try to prove it at every turn. Think of yourself as a white mouse in the laboratory.

Thank you, Juan Castillo.

What we have here are two men who share a common bond. They are the good soldiers, loyal almost to a fault, in it to the end because it is part of their nature.

Tom Bradley, known as "Scrap" from his cornerback days, demonstrated grace and class in the two months he spent in the role of reliever, even as those occasional tremors rocked the Valley.

Juan Castillo, who was switched from a virtual lifetime spent on one side of the football to the other, did not yelp at Reid: "What, have you totally lost all touch with reality?" No, he soldiered on. The switch was every bit the catastrophe that had been predicted, with a crumb of consolation over the last four games. But they did improve, fool's gold or not.

Tom Bradley is a Penn State lifer, and doesn't that sound familiar? On Nov. 9, he was anointed interim coach of a football franchise that generates tens of millions of dollars, that supports 28 other sports, that is crowingly proud of itself, and that now has set about the daunting process of resurrecting its good name. Scrap was the point man, and now hands off to Bill O'Brien, about whom we know precious little. His hiring may turn out to be a stroke of genius or a regrettable choice.

As for Scrap, he did yeoman work. He showed a football team how to get through the briar patch of scandal, to keep its focus, to look out for each other. Together, they rode out the big waves.

And in the last few days he has been on the road at a frenzied pace, trying to win over some new recruits, trying to hold on to some committed recruits, trying to woo back the de-commitments, trying to hold things together, not knowing about his own future, or if he has one, but not allowing that uncertainty to slow him. He is a company man through and through, in the best sense of the word.

His sense of urgency was not matched by the search committee charged with finding the successor to Joe Paterno.

Glaciers have melted faster.

Then again, Penn State hasn't had much experience in finding a head football coach. Between Joe Pa and Rip Engle, the Nits have needed to launch a hunt every 61 years.

And it's not easy for them because the Valley of Happy has been so insular for so long. Change doesn't come easily because it never has. And because it never has had to . . . and it is all neatly summarized for you in that four-word chant of loyalty and defiance: We are . . . Penn State.

To that end, Tom Bradley, asked how long he intended to stay on the job, to keep his head down and stride into the wind, replied: "Until the absolute end."

You would have been surprised if the answer was any different.

I know there was a sentiment for a clean sweep, for hiring outside, but the Valley of the Happy could have done a whole lot worse than Scrap.

Now then, as for the Iggles and Juan Castillo, he did what he could, he did the best that he could, and more's the pity. But they were asking him to bring a knife to a gun fight.

From the very beginning he was at a disadvantage even without being asked to switch from offense to defense.

There was a loss of 41/2 months due to the lockout. Then came the radical changeover on defense, to the wide nine, which required more adjustments. Then there was the acquisition of new players late enough in camp to force them, and their position coaches, to learn on the run.

An experienced defensive coach might have been able to salvage more than Juan Castillo could, but then that's the whole point - an offensive man had no chance. He wasn't destined to fail, he was guaranteed.

But he tried anyway. Lord how he tried.

And did you ever hear him make even the slightest peep about the unfairness of it all? No, no words of mutiny or protest from him.

Just bow your back and lift the load.

Loyalty can be an inspiring thing.

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