Eagles coach Andy Reid answered questions for 26 minutes Tuesday in front of the cameras, then spoke with a few reporters privately for 12 more minutes, explaining the extraordinary decision to fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo with the Eagles sitting at 3-3. Reid replaced Castillo with secondary coach Todd Bowles.
The upshot Tuesday: Reid was vehement that he alone made the decision, that saving his own job was not part of his thought process, and that whether reporters, fans and even players might detect a whiff of panic was beside the point.
Reid also hinted at other pending changes. Asked about turnover-plagued quarterback Michael Vick, Reid repeated what he'd said a day earlier about Castillo, that Vick was the starter "as I sit here right now" -- even though Reid happened to be standing behind a lectern -- but he said he would continue to evaluate all phases of the operation during the team's bye week.
"I'm going through and evaluating our football team, both coaches and players. This is one of the moves. We'll see where this goes from here," said Reid, who said firing his loyal assistant of 14 years was "one of the tougher things I've had to do."
It was Reid who shocked the football world during Super Bowl week February 2011 by making his offensive line coach the defensive coordinator. It was Reid who saw Castillo struggle matching wits with experienced offensive coordinators during a series of disastrous fourth quarters last season, then decided to stick with Castillo after evaluating his disappointing 8-8 team at the end of the year. And it was Reid who finally gave up on the experiment Monday night, sitting down with Castillo to tell him he was done.
"We all know how much I care about Juan Castillo as a person and as a football coach. He's a good football coach," Reid said. "Tremendous football coach."
Asked about perception, Reid said: "All you can do is tell the truth. I've been questioned on every decision, whether somebody else made it for me or didn't make it for me. That's not what this is about. At all.
"You can't worry about [perception]. I've got to do what I think is right right now. That's what I've got to do. It's as simple as that. I completely understand where people will come from. I got it."
Reid had spoken Monday of beginning a lengthy evaluation process, first at his day-after news conference, then during his weekly radio show. On the 94 WIP radio show Monday evening, Reid stressed that he hadn't done anything, wanted to let the anger and disappointment from Sunday's loss to the Lions subside before making any decisions. Within a few hours, presumably, he was delivering the news to Castillo.
Asked about that Tuesday, Reid said: "There's ways of buying time in this business, where you can think. Mondays are pretty crazy. You want to make sure you step back a little bit."
Reid stressed his continuing regard for Castillo, said he'd spoken to him again Tuesday morning.
Reid said repeated fourth quarter failures last season, and then again the past two weeks, were part of his decision.
"I thought we made progress" toward the end of last season, Reid said. "I thought we kind of did that through training camp, through the first couple games, and then there were just some things that I go 'I've got to look at this.' That's kind of where I went."
Bowles, who turns 49 next month, was a star safety at Temple who played 8 NFL seasons for the Redskins and 49ers. He served as interim head coach for the Dolphins last year after Tony Sparano was fired.
Reid said he didn't bring Bowles in last offseason to replace Castillo, though a cynic might suggest Bowles got the job as soon as he became familiar with the personnel and scheme. Reid said the defensive scheme would not change.
"He's all-in, works hard, smart," Reid said of Bowles, whom he said had made a lot of good sugestions this year. "Seems to have a good feel for the game, is a good communicator."
Reid said in speaking with Castillo he was "as real as I could be, to a good friend. He understands the business. Thank goodness he understands it. He knows that he's going to be all right. This isn't the end of his road or anything."