So the Eagles won’t get Steve Spagnuolo. Does that mean Juan Castillo is safe?
There’s an argument to be made that unless you can get a slam-dunk improvement, you stick with Castillo and hope the late season defensive improvement was real. The best reason to do that is continuity. Another change and the Eagles will be on their fourth defensive coordinator in five years.
But continuity is only a positive if you’re continuing something good. Continuity is a factor, but it’s not the only one.
You can point to a whole bunch of different factors to make an argument for or against Castillo (i.e. five blown leads vs. late year improvement). But the only opinions that mater are the ones at NovaCare, and the Eagles’ body language has not indicated that Castillo is their top choice.
If Reid was dead set on bringing back Castillo, there was no reason not to say so by now. The team’s silence points strongly to them considering a change. Why let their coach twist in the wind for no reason?
Reid was offered several chances during the season to endorse Castillo, and didn’t. Jeffrey Lurie gave us a list of people who would be back. It included Reid, Joe Banner and Howie Roseman. He allowed that DeSean Jackson might return under the right circumstances. But when he was asked if Castillo would return, he punted.
That says something. When a boss in any field – sports, business, politics – is asked to give a vote of confidence to an employee, the only move is to give it, unless you’re actually considering a switch. Declining to back your own people undermines their standing. The Eagles know that. That's why, within days of the season’s end, Lurie put to rest the speculation about Reid.
Again, if Castillo was back no matter what, there was zero upside in refusing to say so. But there have been questions around Castillo since midway through the season, and the Eagles have never dispelled them.
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that they have at least explored their options. Reid has not held his normal end of season wrap up precisely because last year he backed Sean McDermott in public even though he was planning to fire him. The Eagles (wisely) wanted to avoid a similar situation of having to address the media while moves were still in flux.
(Some argued to me on Twitter that since Reid’s endorsements of McDermott didn’t mean a lot, that it doesn’t mean anything that he hasn’t backed Castillo. These are two different situations. If you’re firing a guy, maybe you hide that for a bit to help him save face and get a new gig. But if you are intent on KEEPING a coach, and believe fully in him, there’s no reason to be quiet about that, especially when people are calling for his head).
This is not to say Castillo should be gone, or is gone. That decision is up to the Eagles, and even if they want to make a change (as I think they do), the uncertainty around Reid’s future might make it hard to lure a hot assistant to Philly. Maybe Spags was never an option. From what I can tell the Eagles haven’t talked to anyone about it – locally, nationally, inter-galactically or otherwise.
But Spagnuolo is hardly the only defensive coach in the NFL, and there’s nothing that says the Eagles had to make a decision by now. They didn’t announce Castillo’s hire until the week of the Super Bowl last season. Other teams are still looking for head coaches. Four pretty good teams are still playing - their staffs could be intriguing.
It's possible that now Reid talks to the press and says Castillo was his guy all along (though I'd doubt it would happen so fast - if only because of appearances so close to Spags' deal). But I think it's more likely the Eagles were looking and keep looking. Just because one big name came off the market, doesn't mean that would have to stop.