Andy Reid appears to have saved his job in Philadelphia, if it was ever truly on the line, and a recent surge on the defensive side of the ball had fans wondering whether Juan Castillo had done the same. For much of the season, Castillo appeared primed to be the fall guy whether Reid stayed or not. Now, according to one report, Castillo may indeed be out, with the Eagles bringing a familiar face back into the organization.
Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Steve Spagnuolo will be fired by the St. Louis Rams, replaced by current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Spags has a soft landing in place though, if this report has any validity. Per Acee's sources, it is "all but certain" that Spagnuolo will be named the Eagles defensive coordinator. That's a lot of possibilities that need to become realities in order for everything to shake out as described... But it's not farfetched to think Spagnuolo would be on the Eagles' short list if he's available and Castillo is shown the door.
Spagnuolo was a popular position coach for the Eagles from 1999-2006, when he led the linebackers and defensive backs under Jim Johnson. He then had an excellent but brief stay as defensive coordinator of the Giants, who went on beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Most Eagles fans probably remember not knowing who to root for in that one, but Spags being the architect of the winning defense softened the blow some.
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Spagnuolo was a hot commodity when hired to be the head coach of the Rams in 2009, but things ultimately didn't go well for him in St. Louis, and it appears all but certain he'll coach his final game for them against the 49ers this weekend. He has one year left on his contract with the Rams.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some sobering notes on how historically bad the Rams' 2-13 season has been—and not just on the offensive side of the ball. After a 1-15 first season in StL, Spags coached the Rams to a very respectable 7-9 mark last year. However, even before the 2011 season began, you could see that the team faced a brutal schedule, and injuries to Sam Bradford and even backup AJ Feeley made a winning season even less likely.
For the Eagles, it's a timeline that appears to have been off by one year. Had Spagnuolo's Rams run ended in 2010, he might have been the perfect fit for a Philly team that was making headlines by targeting top talent once the league's hiatus ended. There were initially very few voices of dissent about the players they brought in, but Castillo was seen as a likely Reid mistake from day one, having never coached in a defensive capacity at the NFL level. It took his unit a long time to gel, but it lately has (albeit against some lesser quarterbacks).
Many Eagles fans won't lay all the blame at Castillo's feet, either. He had a lockout-shortened off-season, some questionable personnel, and an offense with a penchant for giving short fields due to turnovers. Castillo's failures will be seen as an extension of Reid's.
If the report is true and Spagnuolo is hired, the announcement will be far more popular than when we found out the offensive line coach was taking over the defense, with assistants already firmly in place. Many questions will still need to be answered if Spagnuolo does indeed come back to Philly, including what he'll do about the personnel he may inherit in his coaches and players.
We'll take a closer look as to what a Spagnuolo return could mean once it's closer to official. Again, this is just a preliminary report with unnamed sources, and Spagnuolo is still set to coach a game for the Rams while Castillo is at the defensive helm for the Eagles at least through the week. While it's certainly possible the Birds would want him back, what's surprising here is that anyone with certain knowledge of such a plan would have let it get to a reporter. The Eagles don't usually operate that way, and it'd be disrespectful to Castillo, whom they've highly regarded for years. We'll see how it plays out.
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