Here are three thoughts on where the Eagles stand, now that Steve Spagnuolo is headed to New Orleans to be the Saints defensive coordinator:
1. Taking a step back, it's not difficult to see why Spagnuolo found the Saints' job attractive. He's been through this before, and my guess is the single biggest factor in his decision was: How can I put myself in position to become a head coach again? Take a look at Spagnuolo's bio:
1982-83: Grad assistant, UMass
1983: Player personnel intern, Washington Redskins
1984-86: Defenslive line/special teams, Lafayette
1987-91: Defensive backs/coordinator, UConn
1992: Defensive line/special teams, Barceolona Dragons
1993: Scout, San Diego Chargers
1993-94: Defensive backs/linebackers/coordinator, Maine
1994-95: Defensive backs, Rutgers
1996-97: Defensive backs, Bowling Green
1998: Defensive coordinator/linebackers, Frankfurt Galaxy
1999-2000: Defensive assistant, Philadelphia Eagles
2001-03: Defensive backs, Philadelphia Eagles
2004-06: Linebackers, Philadelphia Eagles
2007-08: Defensive coordinator, New York Giants
2009-11: Head coach, St. Louis Rams
Twelve stops and 27 years before becoming a head coach in the NFL.
Now, he's 52 and very well might only get one more opportunity. His best shot at a second chance is to improve the Saints' defense and help them get to the Super Bowl in 2012. Since the start of the 2011 season, seven NFL head-coaching jobs opened up: St. Louis, Miami, Oakland, Tampa, Jacksonville, Kansas City and Indianapolis.
Assuming a similar turnover in 2012, Spagnuolo could potentially only have to spend one year as a defensive coordinator. Look at what's happened with Perry Fewell in New York. Heading into Week 17, he was no sure bet to return as defensive coordinator of the Giants. Now, it's possible he'll leave to be a head coach after the season.
2. I've heard some argue that the Eagles have better defensive talent than the Saints. And I'd agree with that. The Birds finished ahead of New Orleans in pretty much every statistical category last season. Football Outsiders had the Saints ranked 28th in overall defense; the Eagles were 12th.
But maybe, Spagnuolo's decision had more to do with a player on the other side of the ball and the coach he'll be working for. Drew Brees and Sean Payton give the Saints a chance to get to the Super Bowl next season. Check out this line from New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan:
Moreover, the Saints are built to win now. They don't have time for a young coordinator to learn on the job. There's too much at stake during this critical window of opportunity. I expect Spagnuolo to immediately take control of the job and not miss a beat.
I'm guessing those three sentences resonate with just about every Eagles fan who watched Reid name Castillo defensive coordinator last offseason.
As for the Birds' roster, there are plenty of quality veterans: Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, and Mike Patterson.
But they don't have a sure thing at quarterback, and the head-coaching situation lacks the stability that was in place when Spagnuolo was an assistant for Reid
3. As for where the Eagles go from here, all we can do is guess. As of this writing, there has not been a single report - either locally or nationally - that's indicated the Eagles sat down and interviewed Spagnuolo. But then again, the Eagles have become an unpredictable organization that consistently surprises us (signing Michael Vick, naming Castillo defensive coordinator, trading Donovan McNabb to the Redskins, and so on). In this case, if bringing Castillo back is even a possibility, it's in the team's best interest to be secretive if it's looking into other options.
Remember, Jeffrey Lurie admitted at press conference that other options fell through last offseason, leading to the Castillo move. This week, word leaked that Spagnuolo had interviewed with the Colts and Saints, but not the Eagles. What they likely want to avoid is the perception that they really wanted Spagnuolo, didn't get him, and now Castillo is the backup plan for the second year in a row.
That perception may very well be the reality, but what good does it do for the organization to admit it?
It's possible that Reid surprises us again and names a new defensive coordinator who isn't on anyone's radar. It's also possible that Castillo comes back. If that happens, the spin becomes this: The defense improved last year and is talented enough to make great strides with a full offseason. Maybe Reid and Howie Roseman will even admit that they put Castillo in a tough spot by failing to upgrade at linebacker, despite implementing the new scheme up front with Jim Washburn.
But the only thing that is clear is this: If Reid were 100 percent sold on bringing Castillo back, he could have just said so when the season ended.
Regardless of what he says at this point, bringing Castillo back will look like a fallback plan.