A Line in the Mudd

February 3, 2011

Lost in the wake of the whole “Juan Castillo to Defensive Coordinator” brouhaha is the slightly-less important news that the Eagles hired Howard Mudd as Offensive Line Coach.

Whether it was prior to promoting Castillo (and setting that chain-of-events in motion) or after the fact, the Eagles were able to nab Mudd, who coached the Indianapolis Colts’ Offensive Line to great success, from 1998 to 2009. And much like the addition of Jim Washburn from Tennessee, Mudd could prove to be a huge coup for Andy and the O-line.

Since the 2000 season, Mudd’s Offensive Line units have posted the best pass protection numbers of any NFL team – leading the league in sacks allowed in four of his last five years and in the top-two in nine of his last eleven years! Very impressive, especially when you consider the Eagles line has been mediocre at best in pass protection, averaging the 18th overall in sacks since 2000. Below you can see the breakdown of both the Eagles’ and Colts’ total offensive line ranks and pass protection ranks from 1999 (when Reid took over) to 2009 (when Mudd left the Colts), courtesy of FootballOutsiders.com (and make sure to check out their expanded statistical analysis).

The two teams have been relatively on par with each other over the course of the decade, but the Colts really stand out in pass protection – an area where the Eagles have sorely lacked, which seems crazy considering they average nearly 35 pass attempts per game.

The question is: Do these rankings reflect the scheme or the personnel? It would certainly seem that the personnel play a huge role. Both offensive lines have produced seven Pro Bowl appearances: Tra Thomas (2002, 03, 05), Jermane Mayberry (2003), Jon Runyan (2003) and Shawn Andrews (2007, 08) for the Eagles; and Jeff Saturday (2005, 06, 07, 09) and Tarik Glenn (2004, 05, 06) for the Colts.

But consider those sack ranks again, and then think of the two Quarterbacks that played in the majority of those seasons: Peyton Manning and Donovon McNabb. Manning is known for his hot reads, audibles and quick release (all conducive to getting sacked less). McNabb on the other hand (and Kolb and Vick to an extent), was notorious for holding the ball too long and taking a sack rather than risking an interception. Couple that with Andy Reid’s refusal to allow his Quarterbacks to change the play at the line, and you have a team that lets up a good number of sacks.

So will Howard Mudd(*) come in and improve an abysmal Offensive Line? Potentially… I assume that’s what the Eagles are thinking. But barring an upgrade in personnel – particularly at Right Guard and Center (and maybe at a Tackle spot) – it may take some time to rebuild this thing. Similar to what Castillo and Washburn are facing with the Defense, Mudd is desperately in need of better players, or else there will be little improvement.

The Eagles need to drastically upgrade the Line on both sides of the ball. So far, it appears that they’ve found the right coaches.

(*)And of course, Mudd makes me think of this:

NOT-SO BREAKING NEWS: Eagles Hire Juan Castillo As Defensive Coordinator?!

February 2, 2011

I’m flabberfuckinggasted(*).


I love Juan Castillo as an Offensive Line Coach – OFFENSIVE LINE COACH! How the hell can The Walrus defend this?! Well, you can listen to his half-assed, cliché-loaded press conference here. And here. FYI, Reid mentions that Castillo has always been a Defensive coach – which makes sense since he’s been the team’s Offensive Line for 13 years.

The move isn’t necessarily unprecedented. Reuben Frank (@roobeagles) pointed out on Twitter: “Notre Dame hired a defensive coordinator who had never coached defense. He was a college & NFL QB and TE. His name was Jim Johnson.” But that was in 1977. And not in the NFL.

Look, Juan Castillo is a really, really good coach and I am positive that he CAN coach the Defense… But that’s not what the Eagles need. This team desperately needs a defensive-minded mastermind, not just a guy that can coach up players (no matter how much Castillo claims to be a “defensive guy”). Can Juan Castillo seriously call the plays on Defense? Can he help find the right personnel for his fledgling Linebacker corps or a stud Defensive Tackle? Can he come up with a Defensive gameplan to dominate a playoff game, ala Rex Ryan versus the Patriots?

Then there’s the deeper issue here… Who exactly is making the decisions with the Eagles coaching staff? We all assume that Andy Reid has final say over all hires and fires, but ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio has been claiming that moves, particularly the McDermutt firing, came from over Reid’s head.  Is there an internal power struggle going on behind the scenes? Possibly, and we can certainly look at the Castillo promotion in three ways:

  • Eagles Management decided, with the looming work stoppage, to force an in-house promotion to save money – especially if they end up firing the entire staff following the 2011 season (let’s cross our fingers!). With their long history of fiscal responsibility (see: Cheapness), this seems more than likely.
  • Andy Reid, in his own stubborn way, decided to balk at The Billionaire and The Devil’s “supposed” demands to upgrade the Defense and instead promoted one of “his guys” to stick it to them. Not necessarily likely – doesn’t seem like The Walrus’ style – but if Sal Pal is right, who knows?
  • Juan Castillo forced Reid’s hand, as he was pining to move up to Offensive Coordinator when/if Marty Mornhinweg left for another job. Maybe Cincinnati contacted Castillo before they went after Jay Gruden and he threatened to leave unless he was promoted in some way? This seems pretty likely (and thanks @briangoldberg for bringing this up on Twitter).

The thing that really doesn’t make sense – and lends credence to the last point – is that the Eagles could have waited four days, interviewed Darren Perry or Winston Moss, and then still have made this move. The timing screams of desperation and is a clear sign that the team was horribly unprepared moving forward with this Defensive Coordinator search. Why even interview Jon Hoke and Joe Woods? Why flirt with Jim Mora, Jr. and Dennis Allen? Something is completely off about this whole situation.

Maybe Juan Castillo turns out to be the next Jim Johnson. Maybe he’s the next Sean McDermutt. Either way, the Eagles just made fools of themselves with a highly-public and unsuccessful Defensive Coordinator search, that ended in the inexplicable promotion of an Offensive Line Coach to Defensive Coordinator. No matter how it turns out down the line, the Eagles have egg on their face.

Can we please just get it over with and Fire The Walrus?