Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Oct 2012

Eagles Fire Juan Castillo

Holy scapegoat, Batman. This would have been a really smart-looking move, say, one year ago. But over the second half of last season and the first half of this season, the Eagles defense has dramatically improved while their offense has declined. In the new DVOA ratings, they are ninth in defense and 26th on offense. Was Castillo really the problem? I wonder if there's more to this than just frustration over a 3-3 record. Secondary coach Todd Bowles will take over.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 16 Oct 2012

65 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2012, 2:04pm by Dean


by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 10:41am

I guess Castillo ran out onto the field and slapped the ball out of Vick's hands to cause a fumble just one time too many. This should fix everything.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:03am

Yeah, no kidding. The team's underperforming because your offense is turning it over four times a game, so you fire the coach of the unit that's playing well? I thought the move to hire Castillo was bizarre, but superficially there doesn't seem to be any performance-based reason for his firing.

by Independent George :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:17am

It's positively McDanielsesque.

by bingo762 :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:23am

The D is playing well but could/should be better. Castillo was a mistake. Should they have waited until after the season to rectify it? Have you ever heard of sunk cost fallacy? How do you know the D wasn't playing this well IN SPITE of Castillo? The Lions game is a good example why he should've gotten canned. The Eagles D was handling the Lions despite little pressure and multiple turnovers by the offense. So what does Juan decide to do in the fourth? Totally change scheme to a Cover 2 Zone (with a backup safety) and blitz. Are you kidding me?!?

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:40am

Dumping coordinators in midseason smacks of desperation. And dumping the guy on the side of the ball that has actually improved year-over-year isn't just desperate, it's trying to distract people away from the real problem. But in terms of rectifying things after the season, I suspect Reid will be gone so the entire staff will be getting replaced.

by bingo762 :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:46am

Well, Reid isn't gonna dump himself. And I doubt he'll dump Morningweg(spelling) because he inheritted the playcalling duties from Andy

by bingo762 :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:47am

BTW, they should be desperate. Did anyone think they were legit when they were 3-1? No

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:56am

Maybe Castillo was ruining Reid's mojo.

FO posters are a peacock. You got to let us fly!

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 12:02pm

This is likely the real answer. Reid isn't going to fire himself, and he's too personally invested in the offense and Vick to admit where the real problem is. The scapegoat has to be found elsewhere, and hey, here's a guy all the fans wanted gone last year. Problem solved.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 12:40pm

ESPN claims, plausibly, that Reid was under huge pressure to make a change and shake up his staff. It was easier to dump Castillo because he was an unpopular choice to begin with, and Todd Bowles is qualified to be a defensive coordinator, while they don't really have anyone on the offensive side qualified to step into Mornhinweg's role. Not saying Castillo's a genius, but change for the sake of change definitely does smack of desperation.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 12:14pm

The irony is of course that, from my viewing, what would be most likely to save Reid and his entire staff is a really good offensive line coach.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 1:31pm

I admit that I haven't stayed up to date since he got hired there, but has Mudd be doing a poor job?

by DavidL :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 3:54pm

Vick gets hit on virtually every pass play, so there's damn sure something wrong with the OL.

by Dean :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 4:38pm

Sure. It's called injured starters at the two most important positions on the line.

by prs130 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 5:06pm

actually, it's passing plays that take ten-mississippi to develop. although injured starters don't help...

by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2012 - 7:36am

This is true. I was just making a cheap joke about them firing an offensive line coach who was defensive coordinator while having a offensive line playing poorly.

by James-London :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 10:43am

Is this where Harris breaks out the Jam?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by DavidL :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 10:45am

Frustration? The "scapegoat" part seems more accurate to me. Reid is in a contract year and after the way the last few weeks have gone he's got to be worried about making sure it's somebody else's fault.

Or, to be more charitable, maybe the defensive improvement was despite Castillo.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 10:52am

I haven't really seen much of the Eagles this year, but I thought the Defense was the part of the team was actually playing football, and the offense, that Reid controls decided that giving the other team the ball just made the game more fun for everyone. I mean sharing is caring.

by jklps :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 10:58am

I thought there was some mention of lack of sacks..maybe Andy Reid needs an intro to advanced stats tutorial so he can learn about pass pressures, and how sacks are dependent on opponent QBs.

by Brendan Scolari :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 10:59am

I thought this was pretty funny: In my fantasy league last week, Vick temporarily had -44 fantasy points because of a glitch that gave him 22 lost fumbles. The football gods playing a cruel joke, for certain.

by Guido Merkens :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:01am

Vick has taken a pounding this season. If only the Eagles had a better offensive line coach...

by JasonPetersAchilles (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:03am

They miss Jason Peters. He's a big anchor to that line.

by bingo762 :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:15am

Having a rookie center hurts too. Both he & vick aren't adept at presnap changes

by jds :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 1:50pm

If only the Eagles had a better offensive line coach...

And an excellent guy just became available.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 2:50pm

Howard Mudd is bad? Not saying otherwise - I have no info - but it sounds surprising.

by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:05am

This reminds me of when Krusty The Clown announced his retirement from showbusiness.

"Why now Krusty? Why not twenty years ago?"

by JasonK :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:08am

Yeah, that's what I don't get. What exactly do Reid and Lurie know about Castillo now that they didn't know 6 months ago when this would've made perfect sense?

by Jimmy :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:11am

He ate Andy Reid's snacky cake?

by Sophandros :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:18am

Their defense is currently ranked 6th in DVOA.

Clearly, the DC must go.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by bingo762 :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:31am

Is a teams rushing success enitirely dependent on the RB and has nothing to do with the O-Line? Why does Castillo get the entire credit for the D? They are very talented. Castillo has nothing to do with the D-Line. That's all Washburn. And he has nothing to do with the secondary. That's why it was impossible to get a real D coordinator(Spags). All Castillo did was call the plays. There was talk of having his replacement call in the plays from the booth but I guess they figured "Eff it. What's the point"

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 1:18pm

I don't think anyone is giving Castillo credit for the entire D. Merely pointing out that it's odd (very, very odd) for a DC to be fired when his unit is performing so well.

by dk240t :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:39am

What is Andy Reid to do with an underperforming offense costing him games. Fire himself? Of course not - scapegoat.

Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic here. I really thought going into the season that Reid would make it, but now, I have no doubt he won't.

by JasonK :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:42am

Marty Morninghweg is available for Offensive Scapegoating.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 12:37pm

Vick is going to be fed to the, er, well, you know what, next, I suspect.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 11:55am

Totally ridiculous move. A Wayne Fontes-esque "scapegoat your assistants to save your job" strategy.

The Eagles defense was not the reason they lost on Sunday...in fact, they were the only reason the game went into overtime. Outside of that busted coverage on Maclin, the Eagle's O did basically nothing all game, except give the Lions good field position with turnovers and 3 and outs.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

by Sifter :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 8:52pm

I disagree with your assessment. To me it was the LIONS who hung in there with big plays late in the game eg. Scheffler's big gain in the 4th, Burleson's TD - both times Brandon Hughes was the man burned. The Eagles in the 2nd and 3rd quarters were very good, and Brent Celek left 2 touchdowns on the field which became field goals (one drop at the goal line, one catch that was offensive PI). Maybe Celek should get fired...

by bubqr :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 12:30pm

Partly scapegoat, but very responsible too. The Eagles defense has been blowing leads left and right since last year, and the Lions game end was just plain awful. This is a defense that on paper should be a top 5 unit.
I think that it's obvious that the players turned on him, as shown by Asomugha's attitude after the game (usually a good soldier).
Also let's not forget that Todd Bowles arrival was a way to put pressure on Castillo. I even think he was a hair close of getting fired this summer. Those horrible calls last week were too much.
Offensively, I don't know what Reid can do, apart from benching Vick and putting our savior Nick Foles, but I'm curiously waiting.

by prs130 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 5:10pm

it's tough to hold leads when your offense is going three and out and can't play special teams. even when the eagles did score, it happened so quick, the D had no time to rest. it seemed like they were on the field the entire 4th quarter.

by Sifter :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 8:41pm

I think you're on the right track here. Obviously the Eagles D isn't the worst in the league or anything, but it's the PLAYERS I think that have driven this as much as anything. I haven't studied this in depth at all, but the body language of the players doesn't seem good when working with Castillo, and that could mean it's really an off the field problem as much as anything. A couple of times it's struck me that when Castillo steps out on the field to applaud his team for a 3-and-out he doesn't get much love in return. Leaders need the respect of their followers. I don't think Castillo garners that respect.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 12:41pm

I hear Rich Kotite is available.

by mathesond :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 12:50pm

All better now!

by Bill (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 1:13pm

I'd like to know, last 20 years,

(1) how frequently an underperforming team improves after firing a coordinator

(2) how frequently the HC is then himself let go that winter


by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 1:57pm

I dont have all your data...but the Packers went through a couple DCs in 3 years...and then it worked and they had the #1 defense and won a superbowl...then the SAME DC ranked in the bottom 5th the following year with virtually the same players. Not sure how much the DC really matters following that story...scapegoat it is.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 3:12pm

The only example that immediately comes to mind for me (I assumed you mean offense or defense, not special teams) is the 1993 Lions. Dan Henning was fired as OC after a 3-game losing streak left the Lions at 7-5. They finished the season 3-1 to win the NFC Central. Obviously Wayne Fontes kept his job for several more years.

It was another case of job-saving scapegoating, similar to the Eagles today. Henning wasn't a great OC, but it wasn't his fault Barry Sanders got injured. And the Lions didn't even improve that much on offense, other than they stopped turning the ball over.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 2:08pm

But why is a scapegoat needed? I mean

Week 1: Bad win over a very bad team.
Week 2: Beat a very good Ravens team.
Week 3: Crushed by a mediocre team on the road.
Week 4: Crucial win over a division rival.
Week 5: Lose a very close game at Heinz Field.
Week 6: An overtime loss to a mediocre team.

I see a bad loss, two losses in close games, one bad win and 2 excellent wins. Honestly is this such a bad start?

Sure the offense is in shambles, but does anyone really think Vick will keep fumbling at this rate?

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 4:47pm

I resent your effort to inject reason and perspective into this discussion.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 7:21pm

In fairness, the biggest problem wasn't the D, but the Pittsburgh game was there for the taking if the D holds on in the last few minutes. Detroit should have been an easy win, but once again they couldn't hold a lead at the end. It may not have been entirely Castillo's fault, but he certainly didn't get the job done. They should have fired the special teams coach first, though.

by Jim W. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 2:46pm

There is a segment of Eagles fans that think the personnel, DL coach Jim Washburn, and secondary coach Todd Bowles are responsible for the defense playing well. Castillo is sort of, I don't know, just a guy who make poor adjustments and allows the defense to surrender 4th quarter leads.

I'm not an Eagles fan nor do I follow the team closely enough to comment on the matter. For those who follow the team closely and share this sentiment or something similar, I'd love to hear their thoughts.

by jackiel :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 7:12pm

Good find. It seems to me that JC was compromising his safeties' pass coverage responsibilities to deal with his LBs' ineffectiveness in the run game. Also, it seems that Namdi no longer has the speed to be a shut down corner, which is troublesome.

I don't know of too many teams that would be able to shut down a good, well-balanced offense like PIT's with a front seven that's incapable of slowing down the run game on its own, a starting corner who constantly needs over the top help, and another starting corner that's known to gamble a ton.

Based on performance, JC didn't deserve to get fired. However, losing the confidence of the defense, especially after the players started to respect him by the end of last year, necessitated such a move.

Reid should be the next to go for no other reason than he's seriously plateaued as a coach. Schematically, he hasn't adapted to his offense's strengths (more McCoy in the 2nd half to maintain leads, for one) for the past couple of years. And his game and clock management skills haven't improved either. Much like Shannahan in Denver, it's time for a new voice.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 8:35pm

To play a bit of devil's advocate, the Broncos' record in the three seasons before Shanahan was fired was 24-24 and people agreed the Broncos needed a new voice. Their record in the next three seasons was 20-28. Marty Schottenheimer's record in the three seasons before the Chiefs fired him was 29-19, and people agreed the Chiefs needed a new voice. The Chiefs' record in the next three seasons was 22-26.

I agree that you really do need a new voice sometimes. I'm just trying to make the point that firing a good-but-flawed coach is a risky proposition at best. It's extraordinarily hard to make an average or above-average team better. It's much easier to make it worse.

EDIT: To put it more simply, based on what I can see of similar historical cases, the odds that firing Reid will result in improved team performance are poor.

by jackiel :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 9:29pm

Good points. Shannahan got fired because he had total personnel control and many of his player moves didn't work out. The owner couldn't have stripped the GM power from him and expected him to remain as coach. Marty's an odd case. Due to his conservative tactical approach, everyone wants to imagine what life would be like without him, even though most would agree that he's a fantastic coach. The transition from Billick to Harbaugh in BAL has gone very well.

I think the reason why these moves occur is because management feels that it's tough to see how the team can become a legit Super Bowl contender under the current regime. And they'd like to give someone else a try. Inertia isn't great for business, especially when it entails the prospect of a 7-9 win season each season. The fanbase needs reasons to be excited each year. However, I would argue that teams in the marquee markets don't need to pay attention to this as much as teams in smaller markets do.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 9:46pm

Thanks for that. I neglected that aspect of the Shanahan firing. It wasn't just wanting 'new blood'; they really did need him out as a personnel guy. Unfortunately the guy they replaced him with thought spending a first-round pick on a fullback with a hardcore fanbase would be a good idea. And that's the other side to this -- whether it makes sense to fire Reid depends to an enormous extent on who they can replace him with. He's good enough at what he does that finding someone better won't be easy.

by jackiel :: Wed, 10/17/2012 - 5:04pm

Of course. Hiring coaches is dicey. On 1 hand, it's like a used car market--former HCs are available for a reason and you have to figure out why. On the other, you don't know if someone who's never been an HC can do it until you give them the opportunity. Firing a guy like Reid is a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario. Kind of like Marty in KC.

Yeah, I never got why McDaniels received total personnel control in Denver - especially since Shannahan was so bad at wearing both hats. Bowlen should have walked away if that was a deal breaker for McDaniels. Hopefully the experience will ensure that no one that green will have such powers ever again in the NFL.

by tuluse :: Wed, 10/17/2012 - 1:48am

Billick pretty much got fired because he lost the locker room.

by omaholic :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 2:49pm

Wow. This makes no sense whatsoever.

by Dean :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 4:44pm

There really has been a shift in the organizational philosophy in Philly. For years, I used to crucify the Redskins (and I suppose I still do, and deservedly so) for collecting talent rather than building a team.

The only difference between Philly and Washington in this regard these days is that in Philly, they typically collect players who are still good, rather than over the hill.

The knock on Philly used to be "cheap." You don't hear that any more. The problem is that, like two other teams in their division, the whole is less than the sum of the parts. They've stopped getting role players and started collecting talent with no thought to how to get this talent to play as a team.

Early in Reids tenure, it was an unheralded team of no names who came in and beat you and left you scratching your head. Now it's a heralded collection of all stars who come in and lay an egg and leave you scratching your head for the opposite reason.

by bubqr :: Thu, 10/18/2012 - 1:18pm

I really disagree on this Dean - Bringing Babin, Asomugha and DRC all made sense on defense - getting people who could play a wide 9 scheme with man to man press coverage. Getting Demeco made sense this year too. On offense, Mathis was a great find for Mudd's system. Getting Castillo as a DC was a joke, and somehow Bobby April, despite being entertaining, is making the ST teams worse not better. The nearly most important point is they all did this while being one of the best cap managing team in the NFL.
The shortcut "high profile FAs = Redskins" is one I don't expect people like you to take.

by Dean :: Thu, 10/18/2012 - 2:04pm

We'll have to disagree.

I will certainly grant you that Mathis was a good fit and not a high profile player. But I won't concede the same about the two CBs. They brought them in last year with no idea how to use them and then were shocked that suddenly they didn't have anybody who could play the slot. Likewise with Ronnie Brown. They brought him in with all sorts of fanfare about how he could add an extra dimension as a wildcat threat, despite the fact that all the evidence showed that the wildcat was disrupting the offense in Philly, not helping it.

Even a move like Cullen Jenkins, which has largely worked out, feels more like a fluke. They coudln't stop the run, so they brought in a DT who could rush the passer. Same with Babin - yeah he gets sacks, but nothing else. They could have accomplished that by keeping Chris Clemons.

So maybe it's a bit of hyperbole in that at least these aren't Bruce Smith type retirement contracts. But I do see it as a collection of individuals, not a team.

by Theo :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 5:45pm

Reid doesn't care to make sense.

by wr (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 7:55pm

I haven't watched a lot of Eagles games, but when the offense is turning the ball over a lot, the defense is on the field more. Which means they wear down more, and the effects of this are obviously most apparent in the 4th quarter. So I don't think this firing is justified.

by Lvess :: Tue, 10/16/2012 - 9:38pm

From an untrained eye, the Eagles problems on offense seem to stem from three area.

1) They forgot they had one of the best screen game packages in the league. Try using it sometimes when the defense is pressuring Vick.

2) They forget to run the ball, though this is a long running issue.

3) Reid/Morningweg are infatuated with the long, home run pass which is a high risk, high reward type throw.

So, to recap. More of #1, lots more of #2, and less of #3. Repeat as desired and watch the defense issues improve overnight. Or ignore and get fired. Their choice.

by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2012 - 6:39am

Are the LBs poor against the run due to lack of protection? Perhaps Andy has seen enough of the "wide 9" scheme. Or maybe JC wasn't completely on board with the scheme.

by tuluse :: Wed, 10/17/2012 - 2:10pm

From what I understand the Eagles have all but dropped the wide 9.