"It's fine to play that way," defensive tackle Cedric Thornton said, "but we just haven't ever played that way under Wash."
Whether the change resulted in the Eagles' worst loss of the season - a 31-6 whipping by Washington - was unclear. But it was as obvious as Andy Reid's decision to fire Juan Castillo being a "miscalculation," as an Eagles staffer called it two weeks ago. The switch did not improve the defense.
The Eagles surrendered a season-high 31 points to the Redskins, allowed Griffin to complete 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns, and could not bottle up the quarterback and running back Alfred Morris (a combined 32 carries for 160 yards) on the ground.
"Everybody wants to ask about schemes, to talk about coaches or this or that," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "Why is that we can come out and start a game plan well and then all of sudden during the game we aren't doing the same things we were doing earlier in the game?"
Since being named defensive coordinator on Oct. 16, Bowles has tinkered with his unit and given opposing offenses a different look. Last week, he blitzed cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on one occasion. This week and last, he had five down linemen on a few plays in which he thought a run was coming.
But the scheme for the most part has been the same, until the reversal up front.
Defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin were asked if they were required to play "read" on Sunday, and both gave the same response: "Ask Coach Wash."
Washburn and Bowles were not available for comment.
Whatever spark Reid was trying to generate in firing Castillo has come back to blow up in his face. The promotion of Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator in January 2011 was a colossal error and the more egregious one. But Bowles has looked as overmatched as Castillo did last year.
The disparity between the Eagles defense before and after Castillo's firing is telling. The numbers back it up: Opposing quarterbacks were held to a 52.7 completion percentage in the first six games with Castillo; they have completed 78.4 percent of their passes during Bowles' four games in charge.
Castillo's defense broke down in the fourth quarter against the Steelers and Lions, but his defense it was still effective on third down (29.1 percent) and in the red zone (35 percent). Since Bowles' took over, those numbers have skyrocketed (45.7 and 63.6 percent).
The Eagles had seven interceptions in their first six games; they've had zero since. They allowed 19.7 points a game under Castillo; 26.5 since.
"I feel like we haven't played to the level that we had been playing at," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "We started with the missing tackles and missing assignments. I don't think that has anything to do with the change in coordinators."
The tackling has been horrendous. The secondary is out of sync. Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha have been less than adequate. Safeties Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are either ill-equipped to make plays or terribly coached because the only times they're visible are when they make mistakes.
Bowles walked into a mess, but at least Castillo had found a way to make a gimmicky scheme survive through the first six games. Reid, of course, hired Washburn before he even started interviewing coordinator candidates. He wanted the wide nine and believed any coordinator, even a novice, could win with it.
Bowles was just the latest coordinator to fail at making it work. He should not be judged entirely on a system that is not of his creation. He apparently went about changing it on Sunday. Like Reid dumping Castillo, it did not work.
Contact Jeff McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.