Marcus Hayes: Eagles' Reid guilty of betrayal

In Juan Castillo, Andy Reid took his best soldier, put him in a position in which he had little chance to succeed, and then fired him.
In Juan Castillo, Andy Reid took his best soldier, put him in a position in which he had little chance to succeed, and then fired him. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: October 19, 2012

THIS MAN gave you nine games of Doug Pederson when you wanted Donovan McNabb.

This man stared down an angry linebacker adept at axework. He exiled the best receiver in team history. He benched a franchise quarterback in favor of a felon. He let the most popular player in team history roll away, tread still on his tires, steam coming from his ears.

Andy Reid pandered to Pederson, cut Jeremiah Trotter, suspended Terrell Owens, sat Kevin Kolb for Michael Vick and insulted Brian Dawkins' pride. He did it all because he thought it was right, with plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Reid was brave.

After 14 years of hard judgments, this is Andy Reid's worst moment.

After 14 years, you use a word to describe Andy Reid you never thought you would use:

Betrayal.

On Monday, Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Not after last season, which would have been proper; not after this season, which would have been right. He fired Castillo, his chief lieutenant, before midseason.

Reid humiliated a company man, a self-made coaching savant who learned offensive-line coaching from scratch but who longed to move back to the defensive side of the ball, where he played in college and where he coached immediately afterward.

Reid ensured that Castillo will never coach defense again. Not in the NFL; maybe not anywhere.

The Eagles are 3-3. They have twice blown late leads to inferior offenses, an unforgivable sin for any defense that aspires to be elite.

They now have blown leads in seven of the 11 losses since Castillo took over.

The offense has stunk late, too, either running up a decent lead and losing focus, or clawing ahead with just enough time remaining for Castillo's defense to fail.

After six games, after three wins by a total of four points - wins that must be credited to the defense - Reid fired his best man.

Not his best coach; his best man.

Castillo is a walking American dream, a success story risen from the poverty of the wharfside shacks on the Tex-Mex border, engulfed by his passion for football and family and nothing else.

Castillo gets the blame.

Reid, the shame.

Look at him.

Reid is wretched; wretched the way a good man who does the wrong thing is wretched.

The most telling comment to fall from Reid's benumbed lips Tuesday was this:

"I feel full responsibility for putting him in this position."

Let's parse that phrase.

Reid promoted Castillo in February 2011, with a lockout looming.

When it ended, Reid gave Castillo end Jason Babin, tackle Cullen Jenkins and cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - but no linebacker upgrades and no safety upgrades. Reid also was unwilling to trade limited cornerback Asante Samuel, a millstone around the neck of the defense Castillo wanted to run.

The lockout gave Castillo virtually no time to install his defense, no time to integrate four new starters, no time to establish rapport with his players, no time to command respect from his veterans.

The returning Eagles players found themselves taking orders from a madman, known for yelling at his offensive linemen for hours on end - a madman who, as the defensive coordinator, always aware of the subversive undercurrent, suppressed his constructive rage. To his detriment, he suppressed it.

That was the beginning of the "position."

So, too, was hiring pedigreed defensive-line coach Jim Washburn, 63, a devotee of the chancy "wide-nine" scheme. The hiring of Washburn - a former offensive lineman, by the way - saddled Castillo with an icon who rides Harleys and who hates quarterbacks.

With "Wash" on the staff, you think the defensive line paid attention to Castillo?

Reid compounded Castillo's vulnerable "position" this offseason by hiring Todd Bowles, one of the league's more promising defensive coaches, to coach the defensive backs.

Remember, too, that Reid promoted young Sean McDermott to defensive coordinator in 2009. In 2010, he undermined McDermott by hiring Dick Jauron to coach defensive backs. Jauron had been an NFL head coach three times and a defensive coordinator twice.

It's as if Reid is some sort of compulsive saboteur.

Tales of subversion were rife after the 2010 season ended and McDermott was fired.

Tales need not be told of subversion of Castillo. Not if you listened to Asomugha the past two seasons. Asomugha continually questioned Castillo's strategies, never more harshly than after Sunday's overtime loss . . . in which Asomugha was in the frame of many of the key plays.

That sort of discussion from perhaps the most eloquent and intelligent player in the NFL only could poison Castillo in Reid's eyes. What player who respects his defensive coordinator openly questions the playcalling?

But Asomugha didn't get Castillo fired.

Castillo's shortcomings got Castillo fired. He did not command the locker room; he failed to win his players' confidence and respect; he did not develop a viable blitz scheme; and he could not get his defensive backs to effectively play a zone.

Castillo got Castillo fired . . . but he didn't need to be fired. Reid could have increased Bowles' role on game day, could have switched Castillo to the booth and put Bowles on the sideline. Castillo would have done whatever was asked. It could have worked.

Instead, Castillo was cut away, like some cancer.

Reid always made sure that Castillo always was fireable.

When hired, observers considered Bowles to be Reid's insurance against Castillo's failure, the obvious successor.

For 10 months, Castillo has been a goat tied to a stake; Bowles, a lurking tiger.

A nasty "position," to be sure. Reid replaced Castillo with Bowles on Tuesday.

By doing so, Reid has put himself in a can't-lose position.

If the Eagles make the playoffs, if they win 10 games, the move will be seen to have saved the season, even if the defense doesn't improve. The firing will have awakened a slumbering giant, will have sounded the claxon for an erratic quarterback, will have put the defensive personnel on notice.

If the Eagles continue to struggle, it will be seen as having come too late.

Either way, Castillo serves as the scapegoat, deservedly or not.

Really, how can any man placed in Castillo's "position" be expected to lead effectively? It was a recipe for disaster. The fact that it was only moderately disastrous is a credit to the character, intelligence and knowledge of Castillo, no matter how limited the latter.

And now, from Castillo: not a whimper of discontent.

It is the measure of that man.

Ever the good soldier, Castillo gladly fell on the sword for Reid, who betrayed him. Not a whimper, purely out of gratitude for Reid having hired him, for Reid having retained him, for Reid having given him the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator, no matter how flawed the opportunity was.

Castillo gladly fell on the sword, because it was the right thing to do.

Reid, just as gladly, ran it straight through him.


Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com

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