I BLAME Juan Castillo.
Sunday's loss to the Falcons?
Castillo-driven. Clearly, had Castillo been a more authoritative voice in the meeting rooms and on the sideline, Andy Reid never would have fired him.
Had Castillo more cleanly transitioned from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator - a common career step - the defense would not have surrendered seven fourth-quarter leads in the 11 losses on Castillo's watch. Shoot, Castillo had 22 whole games to adjust; the first 16 without an offseason. Who needs an offseason?
Not new coordinator Todd Bowles.
Bowles managed to run a defense that gave up points on its first six series, during which it allowed seven of 10 third-down conversions and committed six penalties. Matt Ryan's passer rating bottomed out at 134.7.
Now, that's defensive coordinatin'.
Castillo left Bowles a defense that allowed passers a 69.4 rating, a 29.1 third-down conversion rate and 20.8 points per game. A defense that deserved credit for all three of the Eagles' wins, if, certainly, a good measure of blame for its three losses.
Castillo was good . . . but not good like this.
Third down was supposed to be where the Bowles defense shined, where blitzes and disguises and trickery demoralized even the best of attacks.
Asked if the third-down hiccups against Atlanta concerned him, Reid replied, "We're going to stay aggressive. That's how it's going to be."
Bowles offered a different review:
"We ran the same things."
Uh . . . Bowles was brought in to be a better communicator. Hopefully, he communicates better with his players than with his boss.
Asked how the defense allowed 30 points in 45 minutes, Bowles said, "It was nothing we didn't know was coming. We didn't tackle it. We didn't make plays."
Reid and Bowles promised a more dynamic attack that would produce sacks and turnovers.
Reid and Bowles blamed the players' inability to execute the coaches' calls.
They blamed themselves, too, but less so.
I blame Castillo.
To borrow Reid's phrase from the first few seasons of his 14-year tenure:
Stay with me here.
Had Castillo not lobbied for, then accepted, the defensive-coordinator position, Howard Mudd would not have exited retirement. Castillo would have continued as the league's best offensive line coach. And maybe the Eagles would have had a decent offensive line the past 23 games.
The line, really, is the problem.
Surely, left tackle Jason Peters, the best lineman in the league and the Eagles' best player, would not have ruptured his Achilles' in the offseason; at least, not the second time.
Castillo, who nearly lost the use of a leg in an ugly electric-cart accident as an Eagles assistant, has experience dealing with devastating leg injuries. He could have coached Peters right up.
For two seasons now, Castillo's fingerprints have been all over the Eagles' bad luck, misfortunes and misplays. No, he didn't tell them to draft Danny Watkins, or to sign Kyle DeVan, the right guards who occupy the Eagles' main weakness; and he didn't tell them to sign left-tackle disaster Demetress Bell.
But he didn't tell them not to, either.
Sabotage by silence.
FEMA, distracted Sunday with Hurricane Sandy, has not issued a Juan warning.
Lay at Castillo's feet the regression of safety Kurt Coleman, who falls for fakes like Shawn Bradley. As he did on the Falcons' first touchdown, which left Drew Davis alone in the back of the end zone.
Certainly, it is Castillo's fault that safety Nate Allen and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie whiffed on the backbreaking, 43-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers in the third quarter.
And if it weren't for Castillo, Nnamdi Asomugha would have been able to run with Julio Jones on the 63-yard, second-quarter touchdown that made it 21-7.
Castillo, Castillo; and again, Castillo.
Bowles coached those defensive backs for the 6 weeks this season before Castillo's head rolled. Hmmm: Somehow, Castillo must have contaminated them.
Reid hired Bowles in January to the defensive coordinator job, then promoted him when he fired Castillo. Perhaps if Bowles had not been distracted by running the entire defense the past week, the DBs would have played to their capabilities.
Castillo's poisonous influence inevitably will spread. Still, we must be careful not to blame Castillo for too much.
There is no proof that Castillo was involved in Iran-Contra. He does not know Monica Lewinsky, though he once bought his wife a blue dress. Nobody actually saw Castillo kick Chase Utley in the knee, or hit Roy Halladay in the shoulder; but the Eagles' disdain for the gold-standard Phillies is common knowledge.
Global warming, record unemployment and Lyme disease all would be eradicated by now if not for Castillo's ceaseless meddling.
The denuded rainforests and whale hunting in Castillo's oily wake is spilt milk. While the fallout from most of the other Castillo-influenced problems might be irreversible, the Eagles have a chance to recover.
The Falcons are undefeated for a reason.
"They're as good as their record says," Rodgers-Cromartie said.
They entered the game averaging 28.5 points per game, fourth in the NFC, their same rank in time of possession. They ranked second in third-down conversion. Ryan was third in passer rating.
Yes, the Eagles probably should have made them punt at least once in their first six possessions, but it was Bowles' first day on the sideline. He had coached from the booth before Sunday.
The Eagles' offensive line Sunday played without 60 percent of the players who, in February, were projected to start: Peters, cerebral center Jason Kelce and former first-round pick Watkins, the underachieving right guard who, six games into his second NFL season, suddenly has a chronic ankle problem. Suddenly, chronic.
Sunday, the Eagles started at left tackle King Dunlap, who for the second time this season took Bell's job. Rookie Dennis Kelly started in place of Watkins. Dallas Reynolds remained at center.
They could improve. That would change everything.
Until then, you know whose fault this is as well as I do.
Contact Marcus Hayes at email@example.com.