The Philadelphia Eagles named offensive line coach Juan Castillo as the new Defensive Coordinator this Wednesday. The move came as a surprise since the Eagles had been looking outside of the organization for someone to fill the position. However, as Juan moves into his 17th year in the NFL, he will be moving to the defensive side of the ball for the first time. After firing Sean McDermott and going through the interview process, the Eagles felt Juan Castillo was the best option moving forward.
First of all, I would argue that the Eagles should have kept Sean McDermott as the Defensive Coordinator for at least another year. Since he had worked under Jim Johnson, who produced many great defenses over the years, McDermott would have had the best understanding of the system. More importantly, McDermott simply did not have the personnel for a dynamic, game-changing defense. The combination of young players and key injuries made it difficult to put a consistent product on the field for every game. The defense lost Ellis Hobbs to a serious neck injury that led to his retirement, was without starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley for the end of the year due to an elbow injury, and had trouble keeping its best play-maker, Asante Samuel, on the field at one hundred percent. While injuries are not an excuse, they did contribute to the struggles of the defense this past season. Therefore, Sean McDermott should have been given another year to further develop the young players and bring in the pieces that could solidify the defense.
That being said, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to fire McDermott and begin their search for a new Defensive Coordinator. The list of candidates included New Orleans Saints’ Secondary Coach Dennis Allen, Minnesota Vikings’ Defensive Backs coach Joe Woods, and Chicago Bears’ Defensive Backs coach Jon Hoke. The Eagles would have had to wait until after the Super Bowl to interview Green Bay Packers’ Defensive Line coach Mike Trgovac, Green Bay Packers’ Safeties Coach Darren Perry, and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Secondary Coach Ray Horton as well. While the candidates all have been part of successful defenses, none of them are particularly big names.
What exactly were the Eagles looking for in a new coach? Was it more experience? That doesn’t seem right, since none of the candidates were defensive coordinators, and Dennis Allen is no more experienced than Sean McDermott, as they each have been in the NFL for nine years. Was it more success? If so, than don’t hire Joe Woods, because the Vikings’ secondary was at the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed. Was it a switch to the 3-4 defense? The Eagles do not appear to want to change to a 3-4 defense as they wouldn’t wait until after the Super Bowl to hire Trgovac, Perry, or Horton.
That leaves Jon Hoke from the Chicago Bears. The Bears’ defense was near the top of the league in takeaways and was a large part of the team’s run to the NFC Championship. As far as experience, Hoke had spent seven seasons with the Houston Texans before joining the Bears in 2009. Although this is not a large number of years in the NFL, given his team’s success, this may have been enough to make him the best choice.
While Castillo has done a lot for the organization and may be a good defensive coordinator, I just wonder if the Eagles ever had a plan during this whole process. It certainly doesn’t appear that they did. If the Eagles knew they were going to fire Sean McDermott, they should have had a man in mind to replace him. By hiring Castillo, it further shows that they had no definite coach in mind. If they wanted Castillo, they would have offered him the position initially without interviewing anyone. Instead, they went through the interview process with the hopes of finding a promising prospect and were disappointed. Finally, instead of waiting until after the Super Bowl for the chance at more candidates, the Eagles made Castillo their man.
The Eagles organization has done many things right during the Andy Reid era, but this time they didn’t seem to have a plan of action. In firing McDermott, they lost a coach with the best understanding of the Jim Johnson defense. More importantly, they did not have a solid replacement and were forced to go to Juan Castillo. For a guy who hasn’t coached defense since his time at Texas A & M-Kingsville, Castillo inherits a tough position with a young defense that fans want to see improve right away. In order for Castillo to have success, the Eagles will have to bring in a few key pieces through free agency or the draft. Let’s hope they have a plan for that.