Paul Domowitch: Lurie was skeptical when Reid made Castillo d-coordinator

Posted: October 18, 2012

CHICAGO - Guess who else thought Andy Reid had lost his marbles last year when he came up with the bright idea to promote Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator?

That's right. None other than Reid's boss, Jeff Lurie.

Lurie was asked Tuesday whether he had reservations about making a longtime offensive-line coach who never had coached defense in the NFL the defensive chief 20 months ago.

"Yes I did," Lurie said. "But I let Andy make that call. I respected his decision. He felt it was the best thing to do at the time, and I don't interfere in that area."

And just to be clear, the decision Tuesday to fire Castillo six games into his second season as defensive coordinator also was Reid's, and Reid's alone. The embattled coach called his boss Monday evening to let him know that he was going to pull the plug on an experiment that never should have been attempted. Lurie simply told him it was his call.

"I will never do that,'' the Eagles owner, who was in Chicago attending the NFL's fall meeting, said when asked whether he had anything to do with the decision to replace Castillo with secondary coach Todd Bowles. "The way I operate, a coach is responsible for his staff. [He needs to] succeed or fail based on who he chooses and his own performance. I don't trigger that.''

Reid is starting to go through defensive coordinators the way my dogs go through chew toys. When Jim Johnson lost his battle with cancer in the summer of 2009, Reid turned to not-quite-ripe Sean McDermott.

McDermott wasn't great, but he at least had experience coaching on the defensive side of the ball. After only two seasons and two first-round playoff losses, though, Reid came to the conclusion that McDermott just couldn't handle following in the footsteps of a legend such as Johnson. So he fired him.

Then he went on vacation for a week and a half, watched the pool of qualified d-coordinator candidates shrink, interviewed, according to him, nearly two dozen people, then walked down the hall and said, "Hey, yo, Juan. I'm giving you a new office, a new title and a big, fat raise.''

I thought it was a crazy idea, you thought it was a crazy idea, even Lurie thought it was a crazy idea. But Reid thought it made complete sense. Who better to run a defense than a guy who had spent his entire coaching career trying to block one? And, oh, yeah, he spent a lot of time in Johnson's office over the years talking to him about the art of the blitz, which is pretty ironic, because one of the reasons he got fired was because he didn't blitz enough.

One of the things I really admired about former NFL coach Jim Mora Sr. was his loyalty to the people who worked for him. Back when he coached the Saints, he had an offensive coordinator by the name of Carl Smith.

Smith wasn't a particularly good offensive coordinator. One year, the Saints' offense was struggling and the team's president, Bill Kuharich, told Mora he had to fire him. Mora did so, but hasn't spoken to Kuharich since. That was more than two decades ago.

Later, when Mora was coaching the Colts, the team's general manager, Bill Polian, gave him an ultimatum: fire defensive coordinator Vic Fangio or hit the bricks. Mora told Polian what he could do with his job and walked out the door.

By the way, Fangio has been the defensive coordinator of the league's best defense in San Francisco the last 2 years.

I thought Reid had that same kind of loyalty for the people who worked for him. But I was wrong. These are desperate times for the Reid, and it looks as if he will do whatever it takes to hang on to his job, including hanging people out to dry.

Yeah, I know Castillo was in over his head. But Reid set him up to fail. He took a guy who was a pretty good offensive-line coach and gave him a job he was unqualified for. And, now, after only 22 games, he's canning him, because his own butt is on the line.

Some people might call what Reid did Tuesday decisive. He is owning up to yet another mistake he made and is correcting it.

I call it looking for a scapegoat.

"I put Juan in this situation and things didn't work out the way I had hoped,'' Reid said. "I take full responsibility for that. I take full responsibility for putting him in that situation.

"On the other hand, if I don't think things are working for the best for the organization, I've got to be responsible for that too.''

If Reid's decision ends up improving the defense and the Eagles make a deep playoff run, firing Castillo might save his job. If it doesn't, he might get less benefit of the doubt from Lurie than if he had hung on to Juan.

"He preceded Andy,'' the Eagles owner said of Castillo. "I've known his family since they were little kids. He's done nothing but work really hard.

"Maybe he was put in an unfortunate position too early. That's what I would say. That's not Juan's fault that he was put in that position too early.''

No, it's not.


Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @Pdomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

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