"Jim Johnson, the great defensive innovator and coordinator for the Eagles, was a quarterback in college and, briefly, a tight end in professional football," writes Bob Ford in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, "and when the time came to move up the ladder a little bit, the job he found was on the other side of the ball, as a defensive coordinator. Once there, he never crossed the line of scrimmage again."
Of course, just because Johnson (kinda, sorta) shares a back story with Juan Castillo doesn't mean that the former offensive-line coach is the man for the defensive coordinator job. I have no idea what Juan plans to do with a young defense; neither do the beat writers or analysts, although they might tell you otherwise. Even though Castillo professes to be a "defensive guy" at heart, one that got stuck on the other side of the ball for the last 16 (!) years, none of us can guess how that'll translate to running one-half of an NFL team.
But I do know that Juan sounds like the prototypical teacher of football fundamentals, and a beloved one at that. Jamaal Jackson called him the best coach he's ever had. Jon Runyan endorsed the move on last night's "Daily News Live," and most of the defensive players (sans a very confused Asante Samuel) stated that Castillo will, at the very least, bring a more-than-appropriate work ethic. In that sense, he sounds a lot like Jim Washburn, the new defensive line coach and a man that Castillo will certainly lean on throughout next season.
And it wasn't just the players that expressed Juan-themed love; Leslie Frazier, Steve Spagnuolo and Ron Rivera all spoke out in favor of Castillo getting his big break. Maybe that's just buddies from the Andy Reid coaching tree supporting each other, or maybe it's because they genuinely think Castillo can handle the pressure of Jim Johnson's former job. Either way, the initial shock towards the promotion seems to have become a wave of admiration and respect for what Castillo's done in the NFL so far.
For a lot of Eagles fans, that won't be enough. They want to win a championship, and they want one now. But honestly, unless they somehow coaxed Jeff Fisher into the job, what coach out there is gonna magically bring it all together? Would the championship road be suddenly paved with gold thanks to Winston Moss, Ray Horton, Mike Trgovac or any of the other candidates? They're all just names on a sheet of paper, many of them built up through pure media speculation, assistant coaches on good teams that we know nothing about.
And (I think this is the clincher) they wouldn't be any more fun than this is going to be. Promoting one of your most trusted coaching confidants and abruptly moving him from offense to defense. It's the most "outside the box" inside the box move in history.
I say embrace the insanity of it all. A coaching decision of this type has literally never been made before, and it may end up making or breaking Andy Reid's Philadelphia legacy. I don't know about you, but I think 2011 just got a whole lot more exciting.