The first morning of news conferences at the NFL Scouting Combine was a meeting of the Andy Reid alumni association. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, Panthers coach Ron Rivera and Ravens coach John Harbaugh all spoke with reporters. Not surprisingly, all were asked about recent Eagles developments. All indicated support for the unusual move of Birds offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator.
In fact, Harbaugh envisioned a bright coaching future for Castillo.
"Who knows how it's going to go, but Juan's an excellent coach, plus he's surrounded by a veteran staff," Harbaugh said. "Andy recognizes a good coach, plus I think he's always had a lot of respect for Juan ... I think he'll do really well. I'm a supporter of Juan. I think he'll be a head coach in this league someday. I just think he's a special guy."
Of course, the former Eagles defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott, now has that job under Rivera, having been dismissed after a tangled mess of a season for the Eagles' defenders.
"Sean will flourish with a chance to get out on his own a little bit," Harbaugh said.
Rivera endorsed that view of McDermott, as someone whose struggles had to do with the weight of replacing legendary coordinator Jim Johnson with the Eagles.
"In talking to Andy, his thought process and what he told me was, 'Ron, it's just tough on this young man, he's here, he grew up here, the expectations,' ... the fact that he talked to me made me feel real good about what we were gonna do with (McDermott) .. I think we share the same philosophy."
One of the problems McDermott seemed to have with the Eagles was a lack of credibility with players, given that he hadn't been a coordinator before, and maybe more crucially, never played in the NFL. Rivera, who expects to have a lot to do with the defense in Carolina, much as Reid does with the Eagles' offense, said he doesn't foresee any problems there for McDermott. Rivera, of course, has a Super Bowl ring from his days as a linebacker for the '85 Bears.
"A lot of the great coaches didn't play in the league. Bill Belichick didn't play in the league," Rivera said. "Look at Andy Reid, the success he's had. It's not like you have to have played. The only thing playing really gives you is a different perspective from which to approach things. Yeah, it may give you a little more credibility in certain situations, certain circumstances, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're a better coach than anybody."
Rivera also was asked about replacing McDermott with Castillo: "If there is a coach in the NFL that can make that transition, it's Juan Castillo," Rivera said. "The thing that Juan did, and a lot of people don't know this, but Leslie (Frazier, now the Vikings' head coach), myself, Spags, Sean McDermott, (Castillo) was somebody we sat down every offseason and talked blitzes with. The reason we did was he talked protections while we talked blitzes. He had some insight that I thought was really special ... I think a guy like that is destined. I think he can make the transition, I really do."
Rivera was asked if pressure is building on Reid, now the NFL's longest-tenured coach. Eagles president Joe Banner indicated last week that Reid will need to win a Super Bowl to get another contract after his current one expires following the 2013 season.
"I think so, but at the same time, I'd be really surprised if Juan doesn't have success," said Rivera, who seemed to interpret the question in terms of making the unorthodox move with Castillo pay off, rather than just winning in general.
Spagnuolo said the fact that five current NFL head coaches served as Reid-era Eagles assistants is "a reflection of Andy, the way he does things, the way he grooms people."
Spagnuolo also was asked about pressure on Reid. He said he hadn't thought much about it, but "all of us have a lot of that. It comes with the territory, it comes with this business." But Spagnuolo said Reid is very good at dealing with pressure, and would not have become the league's longest-tenured head coach if he weren't.