By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Tuesdays are usually tranquil at the NovaCare Complex. It’s an off day in the NFL, and with the Eagles on a bye week, it bodes well for down time so injured players could get rehab and for a few players to sprinkle in for a morning workout.
This Tuesday was markedly different. A gut-wrenching day for Eagles’ coach Andy Reid.
A washed out and somewhat pale Reid took the podium at the NovaCare Complex to explain why he fired defensive coordinator—and close friend—Juan Castillo, replacing him with secondary coach Todd Bowles, and hinting there could be further changes in the near future.
Reid also stated that Bowles will use primarily the same schemes the Eagles used under Castillo. Just in different ways, and different packages.
In Castillo’s two-year tenure as d-coordinator, the Eagles blew an NFL-high seven fourth-quarter leads, galvanized by Sunday’s disastrous 10-point meltdown with 5:18 left to play in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions, who scored on two fourth-quarter 80-yard touchdown drives. The Eagles were 11-11 under Castillo as d-coordinator.
“This is one of the moves we’re making,” Reid said. “I have to do what I think is right to make us better, and this is the way I feel at this particular time. I can obviously do better, collectively, we can all do better. I put Juan in this situation and things didn’t work out as I had hoped. I take full responsibility for putting him in that situation. When I don’t think things are working best for that organization at that particular time, I have to be responsible for that, too.
“It wasn’t a phone call. I made sure I talked to him. It’s one of the toughest things I ever had to do. I thought it was important to that I talk to him about the decision we made. I thought we were making progress the last four games of last year, but I didn’t like the direction we were going [this year]. I started to see some trends come back, and I wanted to make sure we took care of this. There were just some things that I saw that I did not want us to go in that direction.”
Reid was emphatic that it was his decision to fire Castillo, and his decision alone. He explained that Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie, the coaching staff and the team was told what was going to happen.
“This was my decision, and my decision alone,” Reid said. “Right now, we need to get better and it’s my responsibility to do that. This is what has happened so far, and I told you I was going to be up front with you here and making sure you understand.”
Some may see this as a desperation move by Reid, whose contract is signed through 2013 … “I understand that, but I have to do what I think is right, whether it was with public opinion or against public opinion, I’ve always tried to do what was right. I’m going to continue to do that.”
Reid said he wasn’t any one thing that caused Reid to make the move. Reid held a team meeting 1 p.m. Monday and addressed everyone—players, and coaches alike, about looking within themselves to find answers.
Through six games, the offense seems a far greater problem than the defense. The Eagles average an NFC-low and are 31st in the NFL overall in scoring with 17.2 points a game. They’ve turned the ball over 17 times this season (13 by quarterback Michael Vick alone, five fumbles and eight interceptions), the second-highest total in the NFL behind the lowly Kansas City Chiefs’ 21.
In the last two years, the Eagles have 55 turnovers (38 last season and 17 in 2012), more than any other team in the NFL. This season, the Eagles are minus-9 in giveaway/takeaway ratio, only behind the Chiefs’ minus-15.
“I don’t know [if Reid has pointed the blame at Castillo] that’s not my decision,” Eagles’ tight end Brent Celek said. “That’s all up to Andy. On offense, we can do a way better job and that’s up to us players. I think people realize things are changing around here and we need to pick up our play. We all need to do our job a little bit better. This shows we have a lot of talent and we’re not living up to it. We have a great coaching staff and things aren’t working out well. I guess things have to change a little bit.”
Celek said the players have to take responsibility for the plays not being made. The Castillo firing came as a surprise and that the players have to produce. “If I don’t do my job, they’re going to look for someone to replace me,” Celek said. “We all have to work a little harder and all have to improve to make this thing work.”
Reid is pressing to make that happen.
“I’m going through the process in what I’m doing, and I haven’t made any moves up until this,” Reid said. “Am I still evaluating, I’m still evaluating.”
Reid didn’t exactly rule out that Vick, who’s fumbled 30 times in his last 30 games, may be part of that evaluation process.
“I’m going through and evaluating everything, I’m evaluating everything,” said Reid, when posed the question as to whether or not Vick is being looked at. “All I can tell you today is what I have today. We’ll continue with this, I know everyone has an opinion. I evaluate every day, but I have time here to go through here. I’m just telling the truth, right now, Michael Vick is the starting quarterback. I’m going through and evaluating. I told the team yesterday and I’m the team today, I’m trying to be real with you. I’ll continue to evaluate myself and continue what I think is right for this organization.”
When the question was posed whether or not Reid is fighting for his job, “You ask any football coach in the National Football League, they’re going to tell you that’s what you do,” Reid said. “You fight to win football games as a football team, and try to make your football team the best possible football team they can be. You try to better yourself every day. You try to make sure your coaches better themselves every day. You hope you have an influence on your players to be the best they can be.”
With 10 games left, who knows. Is there any urgency?
“I want to be the best football team we possibly can be, and now we’re sitting at 3-3 and that’s not good enough for what I think we have here,” Reid said. “That’s not good enough. We have a bye week here and period of time here to make sure to evaluate things and try to make it right as I possibly can. I don’t care about anything else. That’s what I want to do. I want to make sure that gets done and I won’t lose focus on that.”
Vick, according to various sources, will be the Eagles starting quarterback when they host Vick’s former team, the Atlanta Falcons, on October 27 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.