“It’s on Me” or, The Beginning of the End

This is a (short) story about the downfall of a very successful NFL head coach.

Coach was a gifted offensive mind who led his team to such heights that he is undoubtedly the best coach in the franchise’s history. A franchise that had previously been to a championship games, so there was some competition. He was as good a QB guru as there was in the league, an incredible trait to have. When his original QB, the best the team ever had, left he went to an out-of-favor veteran and had success. He was able to take mediocre QBs and make other teams think they were legit starters. And at the end of his tenure he had a second franchise QB but his defense was never right. He changed defensive coordinators and it only got worse; it cost them too many games and eventually the playoffs. In his final season his ownership asked him to change in his defensive coordinator. He refused and was fired.

I’m talking about… Mike Shanahan. Andy Reid has set himself up for a similar situation.

Get used to this look.

If Reid has any chance of keeping his job for the 2012 season, wholesale changes have to be made. Juan Castillo has to go, and the sooner the better, the defense is a black hole. It’s painfully clear Castillo is in over his head to the point that any DC on the street would be an improvement, even Greg Robinson. But that’s not going to happen, so it would be pointless to talk about it.

Andy Reid says two things in every press conference, three if they lose: “I’ll start with the injuries,” “time’s yours” and “that’s on me.” He’s completely right about that last one, this atrocious Eagles season is entirely on Reid.

It was Reid who decided that he wanted Juan Castillo to be his defensive coordinator. I like Juan as a person, I had the chance to meet him about 10 years ago and he really is a great person. But that doesn’t matter one bit. It is painfully obvious that Castillo is completely over matched as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. The NFL is not a kind place to people learning a whole new craft on the job. And that’s not Castillo’s fault, it’s Reid’s. Because it was Reid who decided to make his offensive line coach his defensive coordinator during an off-season where there was no expectation of any mini camps or OTAs to practice with. It was Reid who allowed Castillo, with no experience coaching defense, to have Mike Caldwell and Mike Zordich as first year position coaches, at linebacker and safety respectively. And to no one’s shock, all of those are glaring problems. Correlation does not always equal causation, but you’re asking guys with no experience to fix major problems and so far they are incapable of it. That falls on Reid, he allowed or gave Castillo a fairly green support staff to lean on. Castillo’s position coaches should all be veteran coaches whom he can rely on. Reid then failed to give Castillo the best personnel he could. He gave Castillo some outstanding pieces at corner and defensive line, although the decision to keep Trevor Laws over Derek Landri (who’s now back as an injury replacement) and to a lesser extent the versatile Anthony Hargrove was head scratching at best. But at linebacker and safety he did nothing to immediately improve a team trying to win a Super Bowl this year. The Eagles drafted 4 project players in Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle, Greg Lloyd Jr. and Jaiquan Jarrett, late in camp journeyman backup Jarad Page was signed. None of them are starters in the NFL and shouldn’t have expected to be, and no one resembling one was brought in. Once again linebacker was an afterthought and the safety position was glossed over. It’s not just the coaching staff is inept, it’s that the players aren’t good enough. This deadly combination gives no reason to believe the team is capable of turning things around.

It isn’t just the defense that is an issue. The offensive line was re-made with the hiring of Howard Mudd, and the personnel he was given isn’t up to the task either. If this wasn’t clear when they claimed Kyle DeVan off waivers and then started him 5 days later, then it’s even more clear with the number of designed rollouts they give Vick each week to get Vick the hell away from pressure. The other thing killing the team is that the offense has to stop being so damn gimmicky and out smarting itself. Owen Schmidtt at the goal line, reverse punt returns, HB option on the goal line, only 9 rushing attempts for Shady McCoy (only 4 in the 2nd half!)… it’s pathetic. This offense is better than that. They should be able to line up and beat you straight up, there is no need to get cute.

The season is pretty much lost, the playoffs are a long shot at best. All of these massive faults fall on Reid’s shoulders. It really is on him. There’s no way that Juan Castillo is back as the defensive coordinator next year. The only question is will Andy Reid, who is fiercely stubborn and fiercely loyal, be back.

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