We have all had a few days to digest both the meltdown against Detroit and the firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. I have also had all week to really contemplate on where the Eagles go from here. Should they have fired offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg? Should Nick Foles get his chance after a rough 3-3 start from quarterback Michael Vick? Was the firing of Juan Castillo a publicity move or a panic move?
First, let’s tackle the decision to fire Juan Castillo. I have been hearing a lot of defense for Juan. It’s strange since he has been mocked more than any other NFL assistant coach in the last year and a half. Now everyone feels he should have kept his job. Strange. You have to look beyond the stats to understand the decision.
The Eagles ranked 12 overall in total defense, including 15th against the run and 15th against the pass. Those numbers aren’t outstanding, but they don’t get you fired in the middle of the season when your team has a 3-3 record. The issue with Castillo was adjustments.
Football is a game of adjustments. The opposition adjusts to what you are doing and then you adjust to their adjustments. It’s a 60 minute chess match. Castillo has the talent on defense, but he is terrible with his adjustments. This is why the Eagles have blown so many fourth quarter leads (seven) since he took over as the defensive play caller in 2011. Once the offense gets a feel for what Castillo’s defense is doing, moving the football is effortless. It’s easy for an offense when you know exactly what they are doing.
The Lions game was a perfect example of this. Throughout the first three quarters, Castillo mixed up his coverages to keep the Lions off-balanced. Once Nate Allen went down he completely abandoned the game plan and kept Colt Anderson (Allen’s replacement) 20 yards off the line of scrimmage. The Lions couldn’t get a 50 yard play, but getting 10-20 yards on every pass became a lot easier. There was less safety help on Calvin Johnson and no help over the middle. All the Lions had to do was send their running back outside to take away the linebacker covering him and the middle of the field was wide open.
Todd Bowles is a more experienced defensive coach. He has been a defensive assistant in the NFL since 2000. He immediately brings experience, respect from the players and the ability to adjust his coverages to keep throwing the opposing quarterback off for four quarters, not three.
Michael Vick and Marty Mornhinweg are the next heads to roll according to some, but I disagree. Why would Andy Reid fire his defensive coordinator, bench his star quarterback and fire the offensive coordinator during a season where he has to make the playoffs to save his job?
Reid is going to stick with his offense for now. The team is only 3-3 and just a better defensive coordinator and less turnovers away from turning this around. Vick’s backup isn’t a young Jeff Garcia. His backup is a third round rookie with no experience. Nick Foles had success in preseason, but that’s preseason. If Foles stinks, then what? You have a rookie quarterback whose confidence was just drained and a starting quarterback who will be looking over his shoulder after every bad pass.
Expect the Eagles to stick with Vick no matter what over the next two games. If the Eagles fall to 3-5 and it’s mainly Vick’s fault, then Reid can make the switch. Until then, Vick stays under center. Keep in mind, the Eagles last 10 games are a lot more manageable then their first six. They were 5-2 last season against the teams left on their schedule. They also play a struggling Carolina team at home, a bad Tampa Bay team on the road and they get Cincinnati at home on a Thursday. The Eagles would probably need to go 7-3 from here on out to guarantee a playoff spot. That isn’t so crazy when you look at the rest of their schedule. The remaining teams have a combined 27-28 record.