The Andy Reid watch is officially over. The Juan Castillo watch continues.
And that difference seems very telling the day after Jeffrey Lurie's press conference.
Lurie looked at this past season, recent history and Reid’s hold on his locker room and decided he wanted the head coach back for a 14th year. So he said so and put to rest questions about Reid’s immediate future.
Reid has had the same chance to look back, and has not yet endorsed Castillo or even set a date to talk to the media about what awaits in the next few months. The logical conclusion to many observers is that Reid isn’t talking because he’s exploring his options, is likely to shake up his staff and doesn’t want to meet the media until his new plan is in place. (That doesn’t necessarily mean Castillo is gone – he could be reassigned or left in place with a new coach above him, but the effect would be the same, a new voice on defense).
If there was no change, it would be a simple matter for Reid to say Castillo is back and explain his reasoning. If Reid wants to make a change, that takes time. He might want Steve Spagnuolo, but Spags probably has other options he can also check out. Maybe there are less obvious candidates he needs to feel out. Last year Reid said Sean McDermott would return only to fire him days later. He obviously wants to avoid a repeat by having his moves set before publicly discussing them.
Lurie said Tuesday that Castillo’s future is Reid’s call, but many of his comments pointed toward a change. He emphatically dismissed the Eagles' late season surge – which coincided with the defense’s improvement.
“We weren’t playing Green Bay, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and some of the best teams in the league,” Lurie said. “We proved we could dominate against teams the last half of the year who weren’t that competitive. There’s a lot to be said for the players coming together and the coaching staff holding this group together in a way that was impressive. To hold onto that as the reason to be completely optimistic is, I think, fool’s gold.”
Those four games were Castillo’s best argument for returning. With those contests – against four teams that missed the playoffs and none that had a winning record – the Eagles D finished 8th in yards and 10th in points allowed. But before those games the Eagles were 17th in yards and 22nd in points, and the lasting image before the winning streak was Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch running wild through the defense.
Lurie also made clear that Castillo wasn’t the Eagles’ first choice (helping explain how it took so long last offseason to finally name an in-house replacement for McDermott).
This year, perhaps there are more options. Spagnuolo is on the top of many fans’ wish list and makes sense, though he’ll probably have other choices as well. Two things that might hamper a search for a new coordinator:
-- Do the Eagles keep Jim Washburn, whose pass rush was excellent but whose style essentially dictates to his boss how four of his players line up and might discourage some potential coordinators?
-- Will hot prospects be wary of coming to coach under Reid knowing that without a major success next season, the entire staff could be cleaned out? (The counter argument is that maybe candidates see themselves as eventual Reid replacements, but the guess here is that once the Eagles and Reid break up, the organization goes for an entirely clean, new start).
One last item that may point to a Castillo change was Lurie’s reference to past teams that struggled one year only to win titles the next season. The 2008 Saints went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, but won the Super Bowl the next year. The 2006 Giants were also 8-8 and won a championship the next season.
In both instances, the teams changed defensive coordinators and improved their leaky defenses.
The Saints dumped Gary Gibbs for Gregg Williams. The Giants? They fired Tim Lewis and brought in Spagnuolo.