Here are three thoughts on a variety of Eagles-related topics:
1. After the season ends Sunday afternoon against the Redskins, the first decision the Eagles need to make is whether or not to keep Juan Castillo as their defensive coordinator. If Castillo is shown the door (or moved to a different position), it will mean the Eagles' defensive players will be playing for their third different coordinator in as many seasons. Why is that significant? Because it is a direct reflection of Andy Reid's decision-making.
The one factor that cannot get lost in all of this is that Castillo's failure is Reid's failure. Castillo's excuses (made by observers, not him) actually have some validity. He is coaching defense for the first time since 1989. He had never been a defensive coordinator before. The Eagles hired Jim Washburn and incorporated his system before hiring Castillo. The 'D' was dealing with several new players. And by the end of the season, the unit actually started to play better.
Going into Week 16, the Eagles are allowing 21.2 points per game, which is tied for 11th in the league. There are exactly three teams in the NFC that are allowing fewer points per game than them: the 49ers, Seahawks and Cowboys. If I'm Castillo, that's how I defend my performance to Reid and company after the season. Do these reasons ignore Castillo's flaws and the errors he's made? Of course. But at least they have some merit.
The real question is: How does Reid defend his decision? Again, he's the one who hand-picked Castillo to serve in this capacity. He knew the Eagles would have a shortened offseason. He knew they would be trying to get new personnel to fit together. He knew Castillo would take time to grow into this role. Yet he still decided to roll the dice. Getting rid of Castillo may be the right move. But doing so will absolutely mean Reid is making Castillo the scapegoat. Don't lose sight of that fact as we see what happens in the next couple weeks.
2. Which brings us to the Steve Spagnuolo speculation. I wrote about this earlier in the week when the San Diego Union-Tribune report surfaced. Since then, there have been a few more links to share. Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger pointed out a story from 2008, which described how Reid wouldn't release Spagnuolo from his contract as an assistant here in 2006. Spagnuolo had a chance to become the Vikings' defensive coordinator at the time. I was not writing about the Eagles at the time, but Geoff Mosher of the Wilmington News-Journal points out on Twitter that Reid and Spagnuolo have since buried the hatchet.
As of Friday afternoon, there are all sorts of reports out there about Spagnuolo's future. Columnist Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues that the smart move for the Rams would be to hold on to Spagnuolo. And SI.com's Don Banks has a good column up about what the coaching landscape could look like in the coming weeks. Per Banks, the San Diego Union-Tribune report "is not being taken too seriously around the league."
But that doesn't affect the idea that Spagnuolo will likely be available. The key, from my perspective is this: If the Eagles decide they want to add Spagnuolo, how do they make their situation seem more appealing than others? Spagnuolo will have his share of options if he wants to become a defensive coordinator next season. He'll likely base his decision on which opportunity gives him the best chance to become a head coach again.
It'll be interesting to see what moves the Giants make if they lose to Dallas Sunday night. Will Tom Coughlin be back if they miss out on the playoffs for the third straight year? What about defensive coordinator Perry Fewell? Definitely keep an eye on that situation when considering Spagnuolo's future.
3. And finally, a word on expectations. For those hoping the Eagles will fly under the radar and sneak up on teams next season after failed expectations this year, sorry. That's not going to happen. In fact, I think come August, you'll find many around the country predict big things for this team.
Which brings us to Reid. This will be the fourth time in five seasons the Eagles have failed to win a single playoff game. Their last postseason victory came nearly three years ago, following the 2008 season.
Reid is under contract through 2013. Some assume that means 2012 will be it, unless Reid wins a Super Bowl. But I'm not sure it's that simple. Will Reid be gone if the Eagles make the Super Bowl, but lose? What about if they fall in the NFC championship? What if they have a good regular season, win a playoff game and lose in the divisional round? Is it possible Reid and the front office work something out for 2013? Some of you may not want to hear this, but the answer is yes.
Next year, the Eagles must not be viewed as a young team on the rise. They will have several key pieces - Michael Vick, Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha - on the other side of 30. They will have several other players - LeSean McCoy, Jason Peters, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin - in their primes. And it will be Reid's 14th season here. That means competing with teams like the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Ravens and Steelers. Not just beating out the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins.
The end of the 2012 season seems like a natural point to end the relationship with Reid, but I still think this is a very fluid situation, which could go in several different directions, depending on what happens next year.