The Castillo Question

Posted: January 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 75 Comments »

Will Juan Castillo be the Defensive Coordinator in 2012?  That’s the key question facing the Eagles as the team heads into the offseason.  Should he keep his job?

I think Juan Castillo can be a good Defensive Coordinator in time. The fact that the defense got better as the season went along shows you that he figured some things out. Many people have wondered if sticking with him isn’t the prudent course of action. After all, continuity would seem to benefit the defense.

I’ve tried to balance this vs. the factors that go against Castillo. Aside from dealing with the lockout and a new/young staff, Castillo actually had a lot of things work in his favor this year. Go look at who is on IR. Antonio Dixon is the big name, our #3 DT. Plenty of teams around the NFL had serious injury issues. The Giants lost several guys. Houston lost Mario Williams early on. The Rams went through CBs like Spinal Tap goes through drummers. How would the defense have looked if Cullen Jenkins or Mike Patterson missed the year? Or Nnamdi? Or Trent Cole? Could Castillo have schemed his way through that? Would he have been able to adjust his gameplans to backup talent?

Beyond that, no one drastically fell off. Other teams around the league were hurt in this way. Terrence Newman got old for Dallas. The whole GB secondary seemed to have a bad year. Bart Scott showed his age. No such issues in Philly. I wondered how Mike Patterson would do in a new system, but he had a terrific year. Jason Babin had a career year. Jenkins played well. Kurt Coleman had 4 picks. Juqua Parker didn’t play a ton, but still scored 2 TDs. Derek Landri was great off the bench. You can argue that Jamar Chaney fell off, but we’re talking about a guy who had 1.5 really good games last year. Castillo should have been more hesitant about counting on him.

That ties in to the next point. Can Castillo evaluate talent? Legitimate question. Go back to August/September and re-read his quotes on Chaney. He had Jamar as a Pro Bowl talent that the middle of the defense was built around. At the time it seemed a bit odd, but in retrospect it seems pretty crazy. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ve always had the feeling that Casey Matthews was a Castillo guy. I just got the vibe between those two that Matthews was a guy that Castillo pushed for. Casey might turn out to be a good starter in time, but he failed to impress this year in the base defense. He did fit in well as a role player. Jaiquawn Jarrett is a mystery player. He never pushed for a starting job. You wondered if he might get time when Jarrad Page was benched, but Kurt Coleman had 3 INTs off Rex Grossman and didn’t leave the lineup until he was hurt in the next to last game. Jarrett failed to impress in the season finale. He might be a good starter next year, but right now he remains a complete mystery.

Many people would try to talk X’s and O’s right here, but I actually think Castillo made great strides in that area. I think he knew a lot more of this stuff than people gave him credit for. I believe that Juan’s biggest problem was running the defense. That’s more about people than plays.

Think about where Juan came from. He was the OL coach for more than a decade. O-linemen are the smartest group of players on the team and the least prima donna-ish. There are only 5 guys on the field at once. As the DC, Castillo had 11 starters and another 7 or 8 guys coming off the bench to play a lot. He had some serious egos to deal with. Asante Samuel does his own thing. You think Tra Thomas or Jon Runyan ever failed to carry out an assignment because they wanted to block someone else?

Juan had to step into a room with a lot of different egos, where guys each had a different metric for success. He had to try and bring the group together. He had to sell them on his plan, despite the fact he had nothing to point to as proof of success. Players were hesitant to buy in. We’ve heard stories about players helping Juan out. I’m curious how much of that is them “helping” him vs. pushing for him to do what favored them. Nnamdi might have been pushing for more press coverage, while Asante wanted zone. DRC might have pushed for plays where Nnamdi went over the TE so that he could then play RCB. And so on.

I do think it says a lot about Juan that by the end of the season he had the players truly working together and executing well. It was an all for one and one for all kind of situation. You have to be a smart coach and strong person to get players to go through tough times and then come together. We’ve seen countless examples where that didn’t happen.

So if Juan and the players did figure things out and grow together, does that mean he should stay as DC? No.

Our goal is to win a Super Bowl. Simple as that.

Look at the DCs of Super Bowl winners from the year 2000 on:

2010 – Dom Capers
2009 – Gregg Williams
2008 – Dick LeBeau
2007 – Steve Spagnuolo
2006 – Ron Meeks
2004 – Dick LeBeau
2004 – Romeo Crennel
2003 – Romeo Crennel
2002 – Monte Kiffin
2001 – Romeo Crennel
2000 – Marvin Lewis

Capers has been a successful DC and even a HC in his past.
Williams … ditto.
LeBeau is one of the masters of the zone blitz and an all time great coach.
Spags was a first year DC, but had learned directly under a great coach for 8 years.
Meeks was in his 5th year of running the Colts D.
Crennel had coached with Bill Belichick for almost 20 years when the team won its first SB. Veteran coach.
Kiffin is one of the all time great defensive coaches and the master of the Tampa 2.
Lewis was in his 5th year of running the Ravens D when they had one of the great seasons ever and won the SB.

Notice a trend. These guys were veteran coaches. Spags was the only guy in his first year as DC, but he did have experience as a DC in college and NFL Europe. And I can’t stress the importance of him working with Jim Johnson closely for 8 years. Spags was part of teaching the scheme. He was part of putting together gameplans and blitz packages. It wasn’t like he was some young hotshot that broke through quickly.

Castillo going into year 2 still doesn’t come close to fitting the description of the guys listed above. If the Eagles were a team on the rise and hoping to win a SB in 2014, then keeping Castillo would actually be the smart way to go. That’s not the case. While the Eagles have some youth, the team is built to win now. And that means adding a veteran defensive mind.

I’m fine with Juan staying on as an assistant. Heck, he can remain “DC”, but there must be someone who is above him. There must be a veteran defensive coach in place. We need someone who has put together gameplans for years. Someone who has the ability to do the little things that can fix problems during a game. Too often I think fans assume there are great strategic decisions made at halftime. The adjustments are usually pretty simple, but they have to be made in a very short amount of time. The older and wiser a coach, the more likely he is to make the proper adjustments.

One of the keys is that the veteran coach has failed in the past. He knows what works and what doesn’t. He doesn’t need to think long and hard for solutions. He can go to his mental filing cabinet and dig up something from the past.

We also need someone who can face good offenses and win.  We need someone who can come up big in a playoff game.  Remember Jim Johnson switching Jevon Kearse and Derrick Burgess in the 2004 NFC title game?  That wasn’t rocket science, but it worked perfectly and we shut down Michael Vick.  Could Castillo have come up with a wrinkle like that?

Against playoff teams this year we gave up 35, 29, 24, 17, and 38 points.  To be fair, 3 of those games came early on when Jarrad Page was playing and the defense was struggling, but you don’t always have ideal circumstances in the playoffs.  A few years back Seattle’s secondary was decimated by injury.  They had a guy fresh off the street covering Terrell Owens in the playoffs.  It worked well enough for them to win.  The coaches got him ready and called a good game.  Think about this year when Spags/Flajole shut down the Saints.  That wasn’t the playoffs, but St. Louis held them to 283 yards and 21 points.  Josh Gordy and Al Harris were the CBs that day.

I’ve been re-reading parts of Bill Walsh’s brilliant book Finding The Winning Edge. He talks about the need for a coach to be an expert. He must be so thoroughly trained that he knows everything that’s going on and can coach/teach the players appropriately. I don’t doubt that Juan understands the role of all 11 players and can theoretically explain things. The problem is that I don’t know if he can teach those concepts well. Again, that could come with time. Unfortunately, time is not a luxury we have.

I think one of the key reasons that Castillo was hired last year is that Reid didn’t have good choices. Rather than rolling dice on a young guy from the outside, he went with someone he knew and trusted. This year there are good choices.

Reid could go for Spags, the former Eagles assistant. There is Jack Del Rio. Mike Nolan might be available, depending on what the Dolphins do. All 3 guys have been a positional assistant, DC, and head coach. That’s the kind of knowledge and experience that would be needed.

Saints DC Gregg Williams’ contract runs out after this year. He could be a hot commodity. Ken Flajole was the Rams DC and is a long time Reid friend. He could be someone of interest. He’s not a sexy name, but neither was Jim Johnson when Reid hired him.

The Eagles last year expressed interested in Todd Bowles. He’s interesting. Bowles is a young guy on the rise. That would go against the SB list above. The argument for Bowles is that he’s been around some very good defensive minds over the years. He worked under Mike Nolan, Foge Fazio, Butch Davis, Mike Zimmer, and Wade Phillips. He was with Bill Parcells with 3 teams. That is never a bad thing to have on your resume. Bowles is an expert on DBs and coverages. Let him work with Jim Washburn and the Wide-9 and you might have a good combination.

The bottom line is that some kind of change is needed. This isn’t about firing Juan Castillo. This is about finding a high quality, veteran defensive coach who can come here and help put this unit among the best in the league. We all saw what a difference Wade Phillips made in Houston. We have good personnel (aside from LB). The need here is a coach who can make the pieces work at an elite level. Find the right guy and let’s get back to playing Eagles defense.

* * * * *

A few people have said that I was wrong to judge MLB Stephen Tulloch on just one game. Well, I’m not judging him on just one. I’ve watched him for a few years. I think he’s a talented player who does some good things, but he’s never seemed to me to be a guy I want as “the answer” at MLB. Especially if that answer means $4 or $5M a year.

Also, his bad game came vs the Saints. Isn’t that one of the teams we would need him to play well against? I don’t need to see him shine vs the Vikings. I need to see what he does vs the elite offenses of the league if our goal is to beat them. And it isn’t like Drew Brees got the best of him. Tulloch was missing tackles out in space. That’s Football 101. I will review his games vs GB from this year and see if he played well vs them.

My goal here isn’t to be anti-Tulloch. My goal is to find a good MLB for the Eagles. Tulloch would be an improvement over what we’ve got now, but is he good enough?

75 Comments on “The Castillo Question”

  1. 1 Yuri said at 12:19 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Wow that’s lots of good points Tommy. I thought every angle on the JC question has been covered, but this post is a breath of fresh air.

    I have no opinion either way but ultimately it comes down to who is available and for how much.

  2. 2 Gregory Post said at 12:22 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Well said on everything, Tommy. I laughed out loud at the Spinal Tap reference, the Rams really did have a horrific injury situation this year. We can’t be complacent with 4 straight wins against 4 very lukewarm teams, and I think Lurie hit the nail on the head with his “fool’s gold” analogy. If Reid doesn’t act soon, I think Lurie has enough influence to make the executive decision to fire Castillo and bring in a guy that he feels can bring the city of Philadelphia its first Super Bowl.

  3. 3 Anonymous said at 12:27 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I think Peter James Bond and Joe “Mama” Besser would be good LB targets for us.

  4. 4 Anonymous said at 12:47 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    excellent point about judging tulloch vs his opponents. do you notice a similarity there between him and our defense as a whole?

    lots of people are crying that our defense is terrible. when told about the recent improvement, the same people would say the opponents were awful and that is why the defense is good. he sucked against good offenses.

    but what about tulloch? he has a bad game against a good offense, and good games against bad teams. he sounds like a great fit for the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles!

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 12:56 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I do not have any issues if or when the Eagles repalce Castillo, but I want it to be an UPGRADE, not just a replacement with an “up and comer”. Any of those guys mentioned would be an upgrade. Some positional coach that just happens to have 5-6 years of experience at that position? Not so much.

    But you mentioned a name I all but forgot about, what is Kiffin doing these days? I know he left with his son to go to Tennessee but is he still there?

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 1:00 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Monte and Lane are both at USC..

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 1:01 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Some points:

    1) if you bring in a new DC, can he work with Washburn? Forget the 3-4 coaches and those who’ve only worked a two gap 4-3 defense, a veteran DC will come in with his prejudices and be unlikely to change. If you dump Washburn, guess what, write off 2012. Phillips did great in Hou b/c he inherited a defense with oddles of talent suited for the 3-4, then drafted Watts and Reed, and all he had to do was tweak the defense that was in place. Capers was in a similar situation in GB, with most of the key elements of a 3-4 in place (he had to replace Kampmann after a year, who wasn’t a good fit at OLB, but he had Jenkins – Pickett – Jolly on the DL, Raji sat as a rookie). Now imagine the Eagles shifting to a 3-4, Jenkins is the only suitable DE, Dixon the only possibility at NT, no OLB prospects other than Graham (Babin flopped as a 3-4 OLB, Cole lacks the athleticism to play in space, same with Tapp). We’re talking a complete overhaul of the front seven. Same with a two gap 4-3, we dumped all our two gap types except Dixon. You could go with a conventional 4-3, Dixon and Patterson at NT, Jenkins and Landri at the”3″ – but do you want to bulk Patterson back up again? And you still need to find a true LDE and hope someone will trade for Babin.

    2) Castillo has the confidence of the defense, compare to say TB where they went belly up, Juan had them playing their best ball at the end of the season. That matters a lot. He’ll have a full off season to assimilate what he learned in 2011. Is he really that far behind where Spags was his first year in NY (one year as NFL DC = how many years at lower levels?)?

    3) The best outcome might be Gregg Williams, he’s run a lot of one gap 4-3, might be happy to be assistant HC and groom Juan, given his age.

  8. 8 Matthew Butch said at 1:23 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I think the Washburn point is a huge thing people are forgetting. I’m guessing Reid also chose Juan because he was willing to work with Washburn. Many other coaches who are established will want to make their own choices. It might be a situation that if Juan leaves Washburn leaves- and making wholesale changes to the scheme isn’t a great idea.

    I’m getting closer and closer to the thought that Juan should stay as DC, with maybe an assistant to help him with game planning.

  9. 9 Anonymous said at 1:26 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Wow, so. I’m not just reading that IYO Spagnuolo would be a better fit, but that any number of defensive coordinators would be a better fit–just based on their experience scheming, teaching, and running a defense. I agree. I also think that you cannot overstate the non-competitiveness of their final 4 opponents.

    To me, Houston’s turnaround was a triumph of coaching and informed personnel decisions. They brought in 2 new starters in their secondary, switched G. Quinn back to S, and cut K. Jackson’s snaps in half–giving J. Allen a chance at CB. They also added a very good rookie (Watt) & a solid rookie (Reed) to the front 7, and got great passrush production from 2010 2nd rounder C. Barwin.

    With each day that passes with Juan as DC, I think it becomes more likely he’ll be the DC in 2012. For the kind of coaching/personnel victory and turnaround the Texans had, we’d need to get a DC in here to evaluate and identify the guys he’d want in the draft and FA, to bring his vision of the defense to life. The Eagles get further behind the 8ball each day if their intention is to have someone besides Juan run the D next year. Washburn’s role only complicates that, as most would agree that part of the defense should be kept intact. It’s going to take a creative, experienced mind to get it to all come together in 2012.

    Re: Tulloch, I’m sure many people will point this out, but how was the 3 million the Eagles didn’t spend on Tulloch better served on V. Young, S. Smith, and R. Brown? E. Mathis was a revelation that allowed Todd to move out to RT, but RT could have easily been last year’s RCB. Every indication was that Justice was not prepared to start the season, and how he fit into Mudd’s scheme was always an unknown. Is it unrealistic to expect a roster with bare-minimum competent starters at all the positions, rather than superstars at some and “lick & a promise” type players at others? Even if Tulloch isn’t a 5 or even 3 year starter, he is a much better NFL player than anything we’ve got.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 2:12 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Tulloch wasn’t coming to Philly on a one year, $3M deal. Why do people suggest that? He went to Detroit to play for his old DC. He asked for a $10M bonus and $6M a year, when he found no takers, took a one year deal to re-enter the market in 2012. He figured in Detroit, playing for his old coach, behind Corey Williams, Suh and Fairley, he could have a big season to up his value. Why would he come to Philly on a one year deal?

  11. 11 Anonymous said at 2:40 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Hmmm…your conjecture about how Tulloch’s situation unfolded makes a lot of sense, but do we know if the Eagles were even interested in addressing a position they had C. Matthews penciled in to start from the 4th round? For all of the pooh-poohing of Tulloch’s athleticism, ability, and upside, I still have yet to see a cogent argument that he wouldn’t have been a solidifying presence in the middle, particularly in that rocky early part of the season for this team. My conjecture is the Eagles could have shored up the middle of the defense with an offer north of the 1 year settling Tulloch made in Detroit and south of the monster deal he wanted.

  12. 12 Anonymous said at 6:09 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    same here. i’m not sure he’d be the difference maker we all want, but i think he certainly would have been an improvement. its hard to say that one player would be the difference between wins and losses, but judging by the number of missed tackles this year, i think you could make an argument that way this time.

    i agree with you 100% that we could have offered him enough money. screw VY, steve smith, & ronnie brown. i think it would have been a better use of our money to get a STARTING LB instead of 3 BACKUPS.

  13. 13 Anonymous said at 2:53 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I’m honored to have Tony Clifton commenting here. Greatest entertainer of the 20th century.

  14. 14 Anonymous said at 3:24 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    ha ha, couldn’t think of a good handle. Enjoy your blog, even if I don’t always agree!

  15. 15 Anonymous said at 5:11 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Differing opinions make things more interesting. I like it when people confront me with different ideas and make me re-think my viewpoints.

  16. 16 Anonymous said at 1:37 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I wonder if your comment Tommy: “Bowles is an expert on DBs and coverages. Let him work with Jim Washburn and the Wide-9 and you might have a good combination.” – might be the key statment. Did we fire our DB coach to not conflict with a new DC? Maybe let Knowles call the plays and specfically work with the secondary, Juan work with the LB’s and Washburn with the D Line….

  17. 17 Anonymous said at 5:12 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I think they fired Lynn because they simply wanted a better CB coach.

    It’s possible there’s more to the move than that, but not necessarily.

  18. 18 Anonymous said at 1:45 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Tommy – From the guys over at SB Nation and their Draft Board:

    15. Philadelphia Eagles, Dont’a Hightower, MLB, Alabama
    I’m still amazed that the Eagles could do what they did in free agency last year and completely ignore a gaping hole at linebacker. With Hightower they get a beast who can prevent opponents from continually racking up 150 rushing yards every week. If he can drop 10lbs….this might make sense. They are mocking Luke to the Cardinals.

  19. 19 Anonymous said at 2:13 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    It makes no sense for a 3-4 defense to use a high draft pick on Luke, too easy to find capable ILBs. Arizona needs a #2 WR, a TE or help on the OL more than they need Luke.

  20. 20 Anonymous said at 4:40 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    They might do it for payback for Kolb!!!

  21. 21 Anonymous said at 5:14 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Hightower is big, but I’m not sure he’s the run stuffer that people think. He’s at his best as a downhill MLB. That’s not what we do. If there is a schematic change, Hightower might make more sense.

  22. 22 Mac said at 6:42 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Could possibly go to Carolina or Seattle depending on circumstances, both pick just before the Eagles and both run a 4-3 base.

  23. 23 Anonymous said at 7:12 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Seattle I think will go CB. They are thin in the secondary. Carolina I think has bigger needs than oline. They could use another WR or OL. I see them surrounding Cam or protecting Cam with talent.

  24. 24 Anders Jensen said at 1:47 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Tommy, alot of people seems worried that an experienced DC wouldnt wanna come here because of Washburn. I just wanna know how you feel having Washburn affect the search for a new DC.

    My self dont believe having Washburn is such a big obstacle, because we could still line the DTs and Cole up in closer and still line Babin up in the wide 9. The only thing is we need a DC there uses the 1-gap system and not the 2-gap system.

  25. 25 Anonymous said at 2:00 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I agree. A version of the “wide 9” is used by lots of teams in passing situations where they are trying to leverage their edge rusher’s speed against the footwork of a massive, lumbering tackle. Demarcus Ware, Tamba Hali, Jarad Allen, and Chris Clemons are all lined up extremely wide w/their hand on the ground in certain situations. The question will be, if some new DC wants to use a tighter formation as a “base” 4-3, will Washburn be so opposed as to leave?

  26. 26 Anders Jensen said at 3:08 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    We used a “tight” version on downs where they could run the ball. Also just because Washburn teaches the wide 9, remember he is first and formost a 1-gap dline coach.

  27. 27 Anonymous said at 5:16 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    2 things.

    1 – The Wide-9 isn’t a system that all coaches love. It is possible some coaches would be turned off by that.

    2 – It is possible that Washburn can be difficult to deal with and that’s why people would be hesitant to come here.

    I’ll put up a full post on the subject since there is so much speculation and confusion.

  28. 28 Mac said at 6:43 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    1. What?

    2. Washburn is the Hello Kitty of D-line coaches. How can anyone not love that man?

  29. 29 Anonymous said at 2:16 PM on January 9th, 2012:


    Nice work.

    [Remainder of comment deleted by Poster.]

  30. 30 Anonymous said at 2:20 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Hi Tommy

    first time poster. I respect your opinions/insight. here are my 2 cents
    If you ask each starter of this defensive squad to describe the personality, philosophy, pulse, and character of the unit you will get 11 different answers.
    It is rare to get other players (out of the division, w/ really no hate/biased motives) to describe the team as weak/soft (see SF game). that says a lot…
    you are right, there were really few injuries. the eagles lucked out this year, chances are they will not be so lucky in the future…
    While JC may have improved with on the job training, his initial and mid season product was a DISASTER. It is truly unfair for JC (given the short season, huge transition, and new faces w/o any proven veteran leadership) to grade him…
    can he someday be a good DC? maybe…I don’t know him, but it seems that he is spirited and is known for his communication skills to his players. Unfortunately, not sure if he will get another chance.
    Did he ask for the job, or was it offered to him by Reid? If it was the latter, then Reid is to blame.
    A competitor never walks from a challenge, and JC strikes me as one.
    unfortunately, this is it. Super bowl or bust it seems…even Reid is at stake.
    Does andy remain loyal to JC and give him another shot and risk another disaster and a stamp of failure on his own resume assuming he is let go after next year…
    or does he go after a polished DC, make some more aggressive moves to clench the crown in a weak division and go after home field advantage?

    —-Iggle fan since 88

  31. 31 Anonymous said at 5:18 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Juan told Andy for years that he would love to coach defense and to please give him a shot on that side of the ball.

    Andy won’t put blind loyalty to a friend over loyalty to the team and trying to win a title. Andy will pull the trigger if he feels that is what needs to be done. You don’t keep someone as DC out of friendship. You can do that with a lesser job, but DC is critical.

  32. 32 Anonymous said at 2:45 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Experience in a DC is the key for me. And someone outside the organization (thats had past success with the defense) can give us some fresh takes on possible defensive players to acquire via free agency and the upcoming draft. We are not rebuilding as Tommy said so it only makes sense to bring in a veteran coordinator that has had previous success in the NFL. Nice article Tommy. Go Eagles

  33. 33 Anonymous said at 2:50 PM on January 9th, 2012:


    Even the LOSING team’s DCs in the last 12 SBs have likewise been experienced defensive coaches.

    2000 – John Fox (NYG)
    2001 – Lovie Smith (StL)
    2002 – Tom Bresnahan (Oak)
    2003 – Mike Trgovac (Car)
    2005 – John Marshall (Sea)
    2006 – Ron Rivera (CHI)
    2007 – Dean Pees (NE)
    2008 – Clancy Pendergast (AZ)
    2009 – Larry Coyer (INDY)
    2010 – Dick LeBeau (PIT)

    AR’s hiring of JC was very much an outlier decision.

  34. 34 Anders Jensen said at 3:10 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    The only reason we went to a 2-gap system was that we faced some really good running backs in the division.

  35. 35 Anonymous said at 5:16 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Wait what about the 2004 loser… oh, yeah… never mind.

    So, the conclusion to draw from this is that we should keep Juan because a veteran DC makes us just as likely to lose the Super Bowl as to win it, right?

    I’m kidding, great work.

    Personally, I still like the idea of keeping Juan in place and adding the future HC above him to bring that veteran experience and in-game adjustments. It seems a great plan for short term success and long term stability.

  36. 36 Anonymous said at 3:14 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Talking about making adjustments, did a little check on some stats and came up with a surprising result:

    Interesting point I want to examine, how much did DL contribute to run defense improving.

    Looking at stuffs, it would seem they made a significant change, with the DEs attacking less and doing more containing on the edges, and the DTs getting a lot more penetration.

    Tommy, did you see anything on film to explain this?

    First five games
    DE 8 stuffs
    DT 3 stuffs

    Next eleven games
    DE 1 stuff
    DT 15 stuffs

  37. 37 Anonymous said at 5:20 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    There is no question that the DT play picked up in the first WAS game. I don’t know that there was a schematic change so much as Mike Patterson got the hang of things. Plus Landri was on the backup DL and did his part. We generally won when the DTs played well.

  38. 38 Mac said at 6:48 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    You are being way too modest about the influence of Landri in this post. Please eat come chocolate pudding and edit.

  39. 39 Anonymous said at 5:41 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    For me it all depends on what you mean as “the answer” at MIKE. I think they could get by with a smart, fundamentally sound, but not necessarily pro-bowl caliber player. They need a leader who can recognize offensive formations, shifts and get people in the right spots and not miss plays and/or tackles. Of course everyone would love to have Ray Lewis, but there are few that have ever been that good. They have enough talent at other places that getting a solid and reliable LB or two should be sufficient, imo. I thought Tulloch, having played behind the Wide-9 and have a reputation as a reliable, run-stopping MLB, would fit that bill.

    Tommy, what were your thoughts on Stew? I wasn’t reading the blog then, so I’m genuinely curious. To me, Stew epitomized a solid MIKE. He was probably never destined to be a great player, but he was in position to make stops and occasionally made plays. You could count on it not being an easy task to run at him. There are a lot of differences between this year team and the 08 team that did such a good job against the run, but I can’t help but think that a healthy Stew in his 4th year would have been a significant upgrade over Chaney this past season. That’s kind of where I’m coming from in regards to finding “the answer” at MIKE.

  40. 40 Anonymous said at 5:46 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Stew was great in 2008, but he was playing the Trotter role, lining up over the center on a lot of plays, attacking more than reading.

    He looked lost in 2010, I don’t think the knee was that big of an issue, especially after the first few games, he just seemed to struggle to read and react and got caught on blocks as much or more than Chaney this year. The fact that he couldn’t beat out Paris Lenon this year in Arizona doesn’t bode well for his future.

    Actually, I’d be more interested in Bradley at SLB if his knee is 100%, he’s got a good size/speed combo for that spot, and doesn’t have to have as fined honed instincts as he would need at MLB.

  41. 41 Anonymous said at 6:08 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I mostly agree although not so much with the causes behind his 2010 struggles. I thought he did look extremely hesitant to make a lot of quick cuts and really trust his knee. We’ll never know but his career is certainly not looking bright as of now.

  42. 42 Anonymous said at 11:48 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    No need for Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher. Heck,, 2003 Mark Simoneau would have helped this year.

    We need an “answer” at MLB. By that I mean a player we can count on rather than a project. I don’t want a great athlete who isn’t a skilled player. I don’t want an OLB who we convert to MLB. I’d prefer not to get a 3-4 guy who is a blitzer.

    I want a MLB. Gimme someone who can read offenses, find the ball, get there, and make tackles. Football 101.

    Loved Stew in 2008, but the ACL changed him. Last year he didn’t trust the knee and was scared of taking on blockers. Don’t know if he’ll ever get back to where he was. Loved having a big MLB who could run. Best of both worlds. I don’t blame the Eagles at all for letting Stew walk. He struggled here in 2010 and in ARZ in 2011. Last played well in 2008. Gotta see him get back to form before we can think about him as anything other than a “coulda been”.

  43. 43 Anonymous said at 9:12 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    What about Curtis Lofton? He’s a FA with ATL and still ripe at 25, coming into is prime.

  44. 44 Kevin said at 5:56 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Hi Tommy, I really value your insights and i think your site is a great source for Eagles fans.

    Maybe you can elaborate on the Wide-9 and if it should continue in 2012 with or without a new DC.

    My feeling on it is that it should be scrapped next season with or without a new DC. Everyone has heard the explanation, “the Wide-9 is built for teams with the lead in games..”, that logic is flawed because it presumes that the opposing teams will be passing heavily because they are behind a lot. That will never be the case, and the Eagles will never be a flawless team with a huge lead every game. The Wide-9 no matter what team employs it, will never consistently stop the run, and even if this has become a passing league, it will continue to run the football especially against the Wide 9 (think about the detroit and saints game). The Eagles failed to stop every talented RB that they played against. For all his inexperience, I believe the biggest roadblock for Castillo was having to devise a scheme with the Wide-9.With this much player talent on defense it would be a disappointment if the Wide 9 still exists.


  45. 45 Anonymous said at 11:48 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    I’ll cover the W-9 / Washburn in a post on Tuesday.

  46. 46 Anonymous said at 5:40 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    I really really don’t want to see it scrapped. It was easily the best part of our defence, by its nature it does open a few running lanes but this was just exaggerated by poor LB play. I’d much rather have a dominant pass rush and mediocre run defence than vice versa.

  47. 47 Kevin said at 10:22 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    I agree with you, I rather have a dominant pass rush and mediocre run defense but that can still be done with the right DC especially if said DC is Spags. Yes, the Wide 9 allowed us to lead the league in sacks, but sacks are deceiving and sometimes overrated. Those sacks were totaled on bad teams with bad offensive lines. Where was the Wide 9 when we were playing the Patriots??

    From my knowledge, besides us only two other teams employ the Wide 9 full time, the Lions and the Titans. Those aren’t great teams. The Lions have better LBs than us and they’re still abysmal on run defense. The Titans have been using the Wide 9 since the Jeff Fisher days and I don’t remember them ever winning anything memorable, if the Wide 9 was used since day 1 when Fisher took over, the Titans had exactly 6 winning seasons in 17 seasons under Fisher.

    The only worry is what effect not employing the Wide 9 would have on certain players such as Babin and Jenkins. Babin can still be put out wide on passing situations and we now know his strengths and how to better utilize him. If he is not a fit for us, he would be great trade bait. Jenkins has been a traditional 4-3 DT and excelled. I believe converting to a more traditional 4-3 will have drastic improvements on our Safeties and Lbs, our current weakness. Also If we were to draft a stud LBs like Luke K from Boston, it would be easier from them acclimate and excel in a more traditional 4-3.

    The Wide 9 is the wild cat on defense, it’s a gimmick. The league has figured it out. but something tells me Tommy will be in support of it staying….

  48. 48 James Coe said at 9:48 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    Your post considers the Wide-9 as a pure pass-rushing arrangement. When you get consistent penetration from your DEs, you make it much more difficult to run to the outside. What this means is that the biggest and easiest hole for the RB to hit will be the one right in front of him, straight up the middle. The downside to this in 2011 is that we have had nobody in the middle that can consistently tackle the guys that are running straight at them. (Chaney, Page *shudder*).

    There’s no intrinsic problem with the W-9 that makes it bad for the run game, assuming you’ve got the right personnel and your defense is built to work with it rather than against it. If we draft/sign a solid tackler at MLB (e.g. Kuechly) then we’ll start to see RBs being funnelled straight into his arms and he’ll think all his Christmases have come at once.

    No need to scrap the W-9, so long as the DC is prepared to work with it.

  49. 49 Anonymous said at 5:12 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    The biggest hole is the gaps the DT aren’t covering, the 3 or 5 hole and the 2 and 4 hole. What teams would do is pull the LG through that gap, taking out the SLB, knowing Babin would be wide and Asante would be MIA, while the SS was in the box on the weak side.

    By shifting the DTs before the snap, and sometimes the DE as well, you can play cat and mouse with the QB and the pre-snap audible by unpredictably taking away that hole. They started doing that and there were far fewer long runs, but the left side of the defense was still a vulnerability, even after replacing Fokou with Jordan.

    This can be fixed by getting rid of Asante, getting a better SLB and a more instinctual MLB. The wide 9 is not a shut down defense against the run, but who cares in today’s NFL? It can stop the run when needed (Eagles were among the leaders in power run defense) and get teams into 3rd and long (lots of stuffs), and if you can cover, get the ball back for your offense.

  50. 50 Christopher Miller said at 7:50 PM on January 9th, 2012:

    Nice post. I would be very happy to have JC move into a positional coach role and continue to learn. I want to see this situation resolved quickly. The senior bowl is right around the corner, and I hope we have our guy in place by then. I am not as down on Howie as some and feel like he is at his best when he has a well defined set of parameters from a strong, experienced coach like Mudd and Wash, whereas with JC I could never really put my finger on what his total vision was beyond “fast” and “physical”. Heck, based on that description Burfict sounds perfect, which is why we need this nailed down asap before we make a wretched decision like that @15.

  51. 51 Anonymous said at 4:54 AM on January 10th, 2012:


    any chance we could lure Saban away from ‘Bama to become our new DC and take the Eagles defense back to the gang green era?! Will two Philly cheese steaks and a one night stand with Megan Fox do the trick?!?!

  52. 52 Christian said at 6:30 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    Megan Fox will be pretty busy in Philly this Off-Season again.

    But I wonder, if a “construction” like Tommy suggests would work. Keep Juan and put a play caller in front of hi,. It might work for Juan, but can´t imagine it would work for the other guy.

  53. 53 Anonymous said at 9:11 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    Saban ain’t leaving Bama anytime soon. He’s an emperor down there.

  54. 54 Steven Dileo said at 10:16 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    I hardly watch college football, but isn’t Saban the jackass that quit the Dolphins after one season? Isn’t he also same jackass that ruined Tyrone Prothro’s career by calling a touchdown play in the final minutes of a blowout game?

  55. 55 Mr. Jones said at 11:45 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    any chance we talk to Marty Schottinheimer and milk his knowledge bringing him in as a consultant type for Defense. That will help Juan and give Marty his chance back in the pros.

  56. 56 Anonymous said at 7:44 AM on January 10th, 2012:


    What are your thoughts on Utah State’s MLB Bobby Wagner as possibly a 3rd round target?

  57. 57 Anonymous said at 7:48 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    not sure why this posted twice…sorry

  58. 58 Anonymous said at 7:46 AM on January 10th, 2012:


    What are your thoughts on Utah State’s MLB Bobby Wagner as possibly a 3rd round target? I am hearing/reading/seeing a lot of good things about this kid. Someone who doesn’t have the name recognition of some of the other MLB prospects but could prove to be better than them in the long run.

  59. 59 Eric Weaver said at 8:44 AM on January 10th, 2012:


    What’s your opinion on some of this?

    I think we sometimes neglect to talk about the other teams in our division here. Obviously no on really respects Jerry Jones and it’s always been my belief if it wasn’t for Jimmy Johnson and then Parcells, he would have had average to below average teams since he bought the team.

    What are your thoughts on that? His best players essentially came Johnson and Parcells’ drafts.

  60. 60 Thorin McGee said at 10:33 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    Eh, I say keep Juan. He put in the investment to get the D turned around by the end of the year and wound up with some pretty good defensive numbers despite curve-busting blowouts early in the season. The stuff about players managing him … look, this is 2011, that’s the exact same kind of managerial flexibility that’s gotten the Broncos into the playoffs. You have to learn how to let your guys own it as much as you do, and that goes for position coaches and players alike, and I think Juan got that by the end of the year. Seems like firing a guy after he did all that to pulled his ass off the fire is only going to anger the football gods.

    I get all the trend stuff about these coaches appear in superbowls and those coaches win them, and how only experienced DCs get there and only 4-year headcoaches hoist the trophy … I don’t think that’s good data to make your decisions. A trend’s only a trend until it ends, and prior performance is no guarantee of future returns. If Juan has it figured out now, and really only Andy Reid is going to be able to answer that, then I’m fine leaving him in place with or without some experienced babysitter. Let the D come together and see what it does next year.

  61. 61 Anonymous said at 12:17 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    I’d be more inclined to this line of thinking if I had a “signature win” from Castillo to hang my hat on. I don’t think any of us have that. I think he’s shown that he can put together a defense to beat guys that might not be starting QBs in the NFL. You’ll play some of those teams every year, but you need to beat the best QBs to move forward in “the tournament”. That’s what we’re after, right?

    I think there is a certain amount of wisdom in leaving everything in place and seeing what happens next year. Castillo’s success is ultimately a referendum on Andy; Mr. Lurie made that clear in his PC–the decision was Andy’s. Andy put him in position, and has the flexibility to remove him from that role, having already failed in appointing another competent replacement for JJ with McDermott. The question will be, if 2012 doesn’t result in something substantial, like a trip to the Championship game (Lurie’s benchmark), what happens in 2013?

  62. 62 Anonymous said at 12:37 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    The Giant and Dallas games when they counted?
    Unless you don’t consider Eli and Romo to be NFL QBs?

  63. 63 Anonymous said at 1:09 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    I don’t think either of those is a “signature win” for Juan, as DC.

    The 1st Cowboys game was easily the best of the year for Vick, who was surgical in exposing the middle of the Cowboy’s defense. Really the only time he looked like a top 5 QB all year. Jason Peters and McCoy also had their best games of brilliant seasons. Didn’t Demarco Murray have an extremely gaudy YPC, with the rushing game being nullified by playing from behind?

    Eli is certainly a very good QB, and Juan & the Eagles helped him prove that by letting him add to his record for 4th quarter TDs when they gave away the lead in the final frame. You might also remember that after the brilliant long drive where V. Young got the lead back for the Eagles, Castillo’s D let up 47 yard completion to Cruz, and had a real shot of tying again in the Eagles red zone, when Babin forced a fumble.

    Again, hard to classify either of those as the kind of defensive domination that’d count as a “signature win”.

  64. 64 Thorin McGee said at 1:43 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    I hear you, you’d like to have a game where he shut down Rodgers, Breeze, Brady or Manning the Elder. He had one shot at one of those, and Bellicheck ran us over with a team tailor-made to hammer our weak spots in the middle. That’s a failure, but it’s a single data point. Looking for one win is always misleading. Vince Young had a signature win vs. the Giants, do you want him back next year?

    I’m going to be OK with this either way it goes, but I’ve seen enough to give him another year. It’s in that spot where I’m just not convinced the 3rd DC in 3 years is going to do us any good. We need to develop our defensive talent better and get them into a cohesive system. I think much of the failure there is pre-Juan.

  65. 65 Mac said at 1:49 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    It sounds like your previous post attempts to define a signature win as a win over a playoff caliber QB, but then in this post you add a lot of other factors about the performance of the Eagles QBs.

    I can’t specifically speak for “austinfan” but I think he was addressing the fact that the Eagles defense played well enough to crush a Romo led Dallas and put together a solid performance vs. Eli.

    The impression I’m getting is that you wanted a game where the Eagles offense floundered, and the defense rises to the occasion to seal the win. Ex… a 13-7 nail-bitter?

  66. 66 Anonymous said at 2:07 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    Yeah, I think that’s a fair description. A game we could point to over a very good QB that the defense just beat. Remember how the Jets flummoxed Brady in the playoffs last year with all kinds of funky fronts and pre-snap disguise? Or how Spags’ Rams stopped Brees this year? I could be wrong, but IMO, the wins against Romo and E. Manning really don’t fall into that category.

  67. 67 Mac said at 4:14 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    Yeah, I agree I’m actually grateful that we have Romo and Eli in the same division with the Eagles and I think they highlight why the NFC East hasn’t been as beastly the last couple of years.

  68. 68 Thorin McGee said at 1:47 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    As for 2013, we’re at that point where this team becomes elite again, or you bring in regime change. If the Eagles go 10-6, lose in the first or second round of the playoffs and Vick looks good, then I think you have a tough decision. We’d basically be in one of those “but X plays well with Andy” arguments again.

    I think either way, without a Super Bowl, the Reid and Vick eras will end at the same time within the next couple years. The team has been mediocre long enough that the leeway is eroded.

  69. 69 Thorin McGee said at 1:57 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    You know what Reid’s position reminds me of now: Donny’s in his last couple years. There was that feeling in 2007/2008 that maybe this was the end, but they made the Championship game in 2008 … but by the time 2010 rolled around we all knew it was time for him to go.

    I feel like 2011 was Andy Reid’s 2007. Now the Eagles get back to sustained eliteness again or it’s time to move on. (And I don’t think a one-and-done championship necessarily buys him a lot of years. How often does a coach win the Lombardi, only to be out of work a couple years later?)

  70. 70 Anonymous said at 4:05 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    Interesting comparison.

    Reid has burned through his goodwill. He’s got to win big in 2012.

  71. 71 Kevin said at 10:46 AM on January 10th, 2012:

    Too many times have i seen Babin go out wide and do his spin to the inside and break contain. The RB then runs down the sideline for 20 yards. Not only does the Wide 9 ask Safeties and LBs to consistently bring the man down but they are taking on more blockers preventing them from creating havoc around the ball. I am willing to wager even if we had a LB like Patrick Willis even he wouldn’t be the same, because his supposed weakness is to run the ball straight at him with a blocker and not allow him to use his speed. We also have to consider our CBs, even if Asante is traded that leaves us with Nnamdi and DRC, who are just as bad at tackling and are expected to bring down the RB when they are directed to the outside.

    All linebackers like to see less traffic which is exactly what the Wide 9 causes, it will be a lot to ask for an inexperienced linebackers like Kuechly (which might be too obvious of a pick for the iggles) to be in system as foreign as the Wide 9 and expect him to excel.

    All i ask for is that if the choice is Spags or washburn walks. We choose the man whose scheme beat one of the greatest teams in the Super bowl.

  72. 72 Mr. Jones said at 1:58 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    everyone is reporting that Spags will be back in Philly by the end of the week!

  73. 73 Anonymous said at 2:39 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    While Spags may end up being hired, I think the initial report got blown way out of context. The initial report says that Spags will be returning to Philly (where he apparently lives) from his vacation on Wednesday. The writer then speculated that he could be a guy the Eagles look at to hire as DC, but it is only speculation. Meanwhile, AR and the rest of the coaching staff is on vacation until next week (which doesn’t necessarily mean no one will get hired this week, just that if something happens, Spags being in Philly this week doesn’t really mean anything). So in other words, while Spags certainly is being connected to the Eagles and that is exciting, the initial report doesn’t say anything that is worth getting excited about… yet.

  74. 74 Anonymous said at 4:06 PM on January 10th, 2012:

    Jason LaCanfora was off with his Tweet. Very poorly worded, assuming he wanted accuracy and not attention.

    Keep your fingers crossed, but no Spags this week.

  75. 75 Don Strong said at 7:27 PM on January 11th, 2012:

    Hey, T. Mark pointed me to this article because he believes it backs up what he’s been saying. It doesn’t (I don’t see “Fire Andy Reid” anywhere in the text.), but it did prompt a response from me over on FB that I felt like I should pick up and share here, primarily because it’s long-winded and my ego can’t be contained:

    That’s actually one of the least impressive pieces I’ve read from [Tommy], because he’s going against his own understanding of how the Eagles’ coaching system works: what Juan says to the public is not necessarily what Juan thinks…it’s what he wants the public and his players to hear him say to the national audience.

    This guy has how many years working under Andy Reid, being the guy behind the scenes who is suddenly thrust into the spotlight…who’s he likely to model his style after when all of his peers are tight-lipped and terse.

    In particular, he spends a lot of time at the front end of the article *guessing* what was going on in Juan’s mind and *speculating* that Casey Matthews was a “Juan guy.”

    In a team with Banner, Roseman and Reid calling the personnel shots, how much input do you think the rookie DC who hasn’t even coached a player on that side of the ball by the time the draft comes around is going to get?

    I do agree with the possibility of adding someone as “Defensive Consultant,” the way Marty came on board way way way back when, and I can see Reid mandating a sharing of duties and pointing out specific areas in which Juan is expected to listen to the consultant.

    But I don’t agree with the idea that “he’s fine if we’re not contending.” This team NEVER rebuilds: the pattern is always to contend while refreshing the squad, and, in general, it works from the perspective of getting them into a tournament regularly. You will never, EVER get Reid to admit that any given year is more about rebuilding than contending.

    Finally, it’s a different NFL than it used to be: the NFL has become a sandbox for coaches like Reid who believe the best Defense is a good Offense: that putting points on the board quickly forces the other team to play into the Defense’s strength, at which point, you tee off on them.

    It’s no coincidence that the better the Offense played, the better the Defense controlled their side of the ball.