Reid said he then set about finding another coach "with some experience [for Castillo] to bounce things off of defensively, that had somewhat the same scheme." We don't know who might have figured into that assessment, but Reid ended up hiring new secondary coach Todd Bowles, the Dolphins' interim coach for the final three games of the 2011 season and a reasonably prominent head-coaching candidate around the league.
"We were able to bring in a heck of a football coach. Juan and he have a good relationship, they've met the last couple of days and they get along well, so it will be a good fit there," Reid said.
So, this is the defensive calculation Reid is staking his tenure on, if we believe Lurie's words about urgency: adding Bowles and giving former offensive line coach Castillo a full offseason, with a year of painfully hard-won experience behind him, will provide a playoff, Super Bowl-worthy defense (presumably with a linebacker or two thrown into the mix).
As the weeks after the season ended went by with Castillo still on the job, this scenario or something like it began to seem likely; Reid said yesterday he never considered jettisoning Castillo. But if you flip the pages back to the end of the season, and especially if you rewind all the way to early December's 4-8, disaster-area Eagles, getting from where we were there to Castillo retaining full charge of the defense for another year seems like quite a climb.
Was giving up 27 touchdown passes and ranking 30th in red-zone defense really just a matter of people, including Castillo, needing to settle into roles? Two months ago, the consensus outside NovaCare seemed to be that you don't gain the depth, and the grasp of nuance, a top-shelf NFL defensive coordinator needs by coaching the offensive line and discussing coverages with the defensive guys in your spare time. Now, although the owner called the Eagles' four-game win streak at the end of the season "fool's gold," and Reid said yesterday he agreed with that, to the extent that winning those games didn't get the Birds into the playoffs, we are being told that all is well going forward.
Reid was asked why he is confident that another year of Castillo is the way to go.
"Well, I saw us get better," Reid said. "And I said before, we had some moving parts on the defensive side . . . I knew it would take a little bit of time to come together, that's how I felt. I'm not sitting here with a crystal ball, but I anticipated that it would take some time to bring together. And then I saw progress, and I liked the schemes that we were teaching them, and I liked the way that we went about executing the schemes.
"You could tell that the players were all-in . . . normally, if there's an issue, and if somebody, if the coach doesn't know what he's talking about, the players normally voice an opinion . . . they believed in Juan and the scheme he was doing, and I think it ended up working the way we hoped it would work a little earlier."
Castillo talked to reporters in the corridor after Reid's session. If he knew all along he was coming back, he didn't say so - in fact, both Reid and Castillo were questioned at length about Castillo's words last week at the Senior Bowl, when he told reporters any update would have to come from Reid, Castillo at the time seeming uncertain of his fate.
Reid said yesterday he never went to Castillo to clarify the situation. Castillo said: "When you have a job, usually, if you're not going to be there, they're going to come and tell you," but he said he didn't know for sure "probably until y'all heard it," which would have been Monday, when the Eagles announced the hiring of Bowles had completed their coaching staff. At other points yesterday, though, Castillo hinted he knew the score by the time he went to Mobile, Ala., he just didn't think it was his place to speak about Reid's plans.
Castillo also indicated he wouldn't have been surprised, at season's end, to have been fired, given that the Eagles missed the playoffs.
"Our job here is to win championships . . . You've got to get the job done. If you don't get the job done, you've got to be ready to accept whatever's going to happen," he said.
Reid didn't say exactly what Bowles' role will be on game day. He acknowledged Bowles will have "input" on strategy.
"That's what you do as a staff. If somebody has something to say, you put it out there . . . That's how it works," Reid said. "I will tell you that he has great experience, so that's a positive. Will he have input? Absolutely. He and Juan will talk, they'll communicate, absolutely. That can be taken two different ways. I expect him to share his ideas, absolutely. That experience, I think, is very valuable."
Reid said he doesn't think bringing in Bowles threatens Castillo's authority.
"I don't worry about that at all. I know what kind of person Todd is. I also know how strong Juan is. Juan is a heck of a leader of men," Reid said. "The players believe in him, as Todd does. In the coaching profession, if you talk to coaches that know this situation here, they've studied us . . . They can tell you that we're pretty solid. I know the [contrary] perception is out there, I understand that. I think that's different within the coaching ranks. Todd obviously has respect for the things we're doing here, wants to be a part of it, is positive and upbeat about it. I know how much our players care about Juan and respect Juan, so I don't worry about that at all. Juan is the defensive coordinator."
Castillo seemed amenable to just about anything.
"Coach is trying to make the staff as strong as possible," said Castillo, who recalled Reid's star-studded early staffs. "There's nothing wrong with having three or four future head coaches on the defensive staff."
Castillo said that "[Bowles] brings experience in the back end, someone I can talk coverages with, someone I can bounce ideas off, certain types of schemes to stop certain people." People like, say, Larry Fitzgerald, whose seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns powered a 21-17 Arizona victory over the Eagles at the Linc on Nov. 13.
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