A couple of things became clearer today when the Eagles made their new defensive staff (plus new offensive line coach Howard Mudd) available to reporters at NovaCare.
First, the implicit message was that defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was fired because he made things too complicated. Every Eagles coach in the auditorium talked about the need to simplify, to restore aggressiveness, so that players weren't spending so much time thinking about their assignments. New defensive line coach Jim Washburn, a longtime admirer of defensive end Trent Cole, pledged that you won't see Cole dropping into pass coverage anymore.
Second, though Juan Castillo will run the defense, the key figure very much is Washburn. Castillo and the other assistants spoke repeatedly about tailoring the back seven to what Washburn will do upfront, setting his ends wide -- particularly the strong side end -- and getting them upfield. Linebackers coach Mike Caldwell and secondary coaches Mike Zordich and Johnny Lynn talked of working "fits" and coverages off Washburn's alignments. Castillo, the former offensive line coach, said the defensive backs might need to get to know him, but because of his longtime interest in defense, he is a familiar figure to the defensive linemen and linebackers.
"The front seven guys know we're going to be aggressive. We're going to be dogs," Castillo said. "We'll have our own unique style."
Castillo said that under the late Jim Johnson, the defense "had his personality." He thinks the same will be true of his unit.
Other interesting nuggets from the session:
Washburn, a colorful figure whose manner is a bit reminiscent of Johnson, declared his love for hunting, motorcyles, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, not necessarily in that order. He said his decision to leave the Titans, which might have helped lead to the resignation of head coach Jeff Fisher, was difficult, but he said he wanted to come the the Eagles because "they've got a quarterback. Two of them, really. It's about that simple. They haven't had a quarterback in Tennessee since Steve McNair left, may he rest in peace."
Washburn said he is more a worker in the trenches than a concepts guy.
“I’m a trench dude. I can help out with the crunch stuff and I’ve got some ideas but that’s not my deal. I tried to be a coordinator one time but I sucked, I was terrible. I just couldn’t do it, I wasn’t wired that way. [Jeff] Fisher interviews me at Mobile 15 years ago and says, ‘Hey Wash, do you want to be a head coach some day?’ And I said, ‘Nuh uh.’ He said, ‘Well, do you want to be a coordinator?’ And I said, ‘Well, I already did it and I sucked at it.’ He said, ‘Well, I got it. You want to be the greatest defensive line coach in history right?’ And I said, ‘No, I want to coach the best defensive line in football.’ "
Not surprisingly, all the defensive assistants were supportive of the unusual move of Castillo from o-line coach to d-coordinator. "I expect great things," said Zordich. "Juan is a very intelligent man ... A lot of coaches go to Juan for some advice on how to do things defensively. We've been meeting for the last week, and I'm real excited about working with him. You can tell there's a lot of energy in the room, some fun and excitement. He's going to do well."
New linebackers coach Mike Caldwell, who has played and coached for the Eagles during Castillo's time as offensive line coach, said: "You saw the energy as a player, but now sitting in the meeting room with him, you see the knowledge. The knowledge is just so overwhelming. He knows the offense in and out, he knows the defense in and out, so I’m just excited for him and ready to get rolling.”