The switcheroo promotion of Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator has to be one of the most head-scratching moves in Eagles history. Often, though, even the strangest of moves can start to make sense when you hear the reasoning behind them.
Not this time.
If you were unlucky enough to listen to the team press conference with Castillo and Andy Reid last night, you were treated to one of the most bizarre post hoc justifications for a coaching move ever.
Let's start with the transition for Castillo "back" to the defensive side of the ball. Supposedly he's been in Reid's ear for years telling him that he's a defensive coach at heart. Castillo did play linebacker in the USFL and coach defense at the beginning of his career — way back at a high school in the '80s. The justification over and over was that Castillo's "heart and desire has always been on the defensive side."
But "heart" isn't enough to run a NFL defense, to create complex pressure and coverage schemes, or know when to call them in a tight situation. "Desire" won't help Castillo outsmart the offenses the Eagles had trouble with in 2010. Nor does his supposed experience consulting with Eagles defensive coaches mean he's ready for this job. Lending an outside voice about which blitzes have the best chance of working is a completely different skill from actually designing them on one's own.
Even scarier is that Castillo seemingly has no conceptual plan for the defense. He and Reid emphasized that the terminology will remain the same, but nothing else is clear. When asked what the biggest part of the defense that needed to be worked on was, Castillo said:
First of all, what we're going to do is be fast and physical, and we're going to be fundamentally sound. We have good players here. This is the NFL, you change, you upgrade, players get hurt, but that's what we're going to do.
I'm used to coach-speak, but there's a difference between being coy about your goals and covering up for not having any at all. Scheme-wise, the big thing Castillo is going to emphasize is being "fundamentally sound"? What defense doesn't need to be "fast and physical"?
Castillo went further:
We hired Jim Washburn, and I think most of you know what Jim does. Jim attacks. He's a sic 'em type guy, which is great for the players that we have and really what I'm going to do in the back is going to complement those four defensive linemen that are going to get up the field, going to create havoc, going to make plays. We're going to complement that scheme.
So, essentially, Washburn runs the defensive front autonomously, and Castillo's going to plan the back seven to "complement" his ideas? That doesn't sound like a defensive coordinator with a coherent plan, let alone one that wants to continue the blitzing strategy the Eagles have had in place for years.
At the end of the day, Reid couldn't justify this decision with Castillo's experience or knowledge or preparation. He had to fall back on "desire" and even an outlandish connection to the risk other people took when promoting Reid himself (under much more logical circumstances). For people looking to be reassured in the face of such a stunning move, these arguments don't inspire much confidence.