Eagles to keep Castillo, hire Bowles

INDIANAPOLIS - Ending weeks of speculation, the Eagles hired Todd Bowles to be their defensive backs coach.

But the more important tidbit to emerge from Monday's news - first reported by The Inquirer - was not that the Eagles were adding a veteran secondary coach to their staff. It was that hiring Bowles "finalized their 2012 coaching staff," according to the team's release.

Read: Juan Castillo is coming back for a second season as defensive coordinator.

For weeks, Eagles fans and the media worked themselves into a froth wondering what would become of the embattled Castillo, who had not received a word of support from Andy Reid because the coach was not going to speak until after he had finalized his staff.

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A few players on defense said they had also been unsure of Castillo's future.

"I had no idea what would happen," defensive end Darryl Tapp said. "When you have a season that you don't fulfill a lot of expectations, there are usually going to be major changes. You don't know what's going to happen."

There were reports, since confirmed to The Inquirer through NFL sources, that the Eagles had shown interest in bringing former assistant Steve Spagnuolo back to run the defense. Spagnuolo chose instead to take the defensive coordinator position with New Orleans.

Castillo, in Mobile, Ala., last week to scout at the Senior Bowl, declined then to comment on his status. "You got to go through Andy," he said. "I'm just working."

Reid will finally meet with reporters Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex to announce the addition of Bowles, but also to answer questions about his future and other subjects that were not addressed after the season finale on Jan. 1, when the coach focused on the win over the Redskins.

Two days after a disappointing 8-8 season came to a close, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said that Reid would return for a 14th season, despite calling the year "unacceptable." He also intimated that Castillo was not the team's first choice when it shockingly moved him from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator last year.

Reid, who has had his judgment seriously questioned since the Castillo decision, will likely say Tuesday that he never considered removing Castillo and that the delay was related to filling the defensive backs coaching vacancy. The Eagles fired Johnnie Lynn several days after the season ended, and Bowles was not immediately available.

For one, he was interviewing for head coaching jobs in Miami - where he was the interim coach for three games after Tony Sparano was fired - and in Oakland. And two, the Dolphins kept him under contract until only recently. The Eagles had hoped to interview Bowles for the defensive coordinator job last season, but were denied by Miami.

Bowles does come with a pedigree of coaching defensive backs, although he has never been a coordinator in the NFL. He spent seven seasons - the last three as assistant head coach - overseeing that group in Miami. Before that, he spent three years in Dallas. During that time, three Cowboys defensive backs were chosen to a combined five Pro Bowls.

Bowles also spent time in Cleveland, and in New York with the Jets. A Temple graduate, the 48-year-old played eight seasons in the NFL with the Redskins and 49ers from 1986-93.

"I was sad about coach Lynn," Tapp said. "But I heard the new guy is well-versed in the art of coaching defensive backs."

The same could have been said of the previous three coaches to hold that post with the Eagles. The Eagles are now on their fourth defensive backs coach in four seasons. Lynn had 17 years of NFL experience, two as a coordinator, before he was cut loose.

Dick Jauron had 25 years under his belt, but the secondary struggled in 2010. He left last offseason to take the defensive coordinator job in Cleveland. Brian Stewart was a defensive coordinator in Dallas for two years before he joined the Eagles for one season in 2009.

Bowles will be responsible for nurturing a group that includes veteran cornerbacks such as Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - Asante Samuel is expected to be traded - and young safeties like Nate Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett. Safeties coach Mike Zordich will be under Bowles.

For the first three months last season, the defensive backs occasionally looked confused playing in Castillo's zone defense. But with the defensive line maintaining its pressure - coach Jim Washburn's unit recorded 46 of the team's 50 sacks - and Castillo finding his way, the defense improved over the final four weeks.

"I'm happy he's coming back," linebacker Jamar Chaney said of Castillo. "How we finished the season shows that we can be one of the best defenses in the league. We wanted Juan to come back. When you build a relationship with a coach like that, it really bonds you."

 


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or @Jeff_McLane on Twitter.