Beyond his explanation for the Eagles' decision to place the franchise tag on Michael Vick and the transition tag on David Akers, Eagles president Joe Banner also, for the first time, gave insight into his reaction to the hiring of Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator and a significant shuffling of the coaching staff. Castillo, of course, was named defensive coordinator by head coach Andy Reid after serving 11 years as the offensive line coach in a move that caught many by surprise, including, initially, Banner himself.
"I was very aware, as everybody here was, of Juan's longstanding desire and interest in defense," Banner said Tuesday. "We were all aware that the defensive coaches had for a long time been going to Juan, so we had at least that basis ... I was a little surprised, but (Reid) walked through his rationale and it made sense.
"We certainly knew it was going to be received with skepticism publicly but as (Reid) talked about his reasoning and more details of things we kind of knew under the surface, it seemed to make a lot of sense. So my attitude about this is that I've learned the hard way to never bet against people who always find a way to succeed at whatever they do ... For me, the thing that was compelling about Juan that I found exciting as Andy went through the football aspects of why this was in his mind a good thing to do was that the essence of who Juan is is someone who finds a way to overachieve and find ways to be successful in whatever he does ... I'm intrigued and excited by it. We'll all see together how it works."
Banner also reiterated Reid's thinking that the move of Castillo to defensive coordinator could only occur if a suitable replacement was found to coach the offensive line. That, Banner said, was the primary reason for length of the decision-making process.
"The fact that time passed and we got near the Super Bowl wasn't really the relevant part," said Banner. "This was a desired outcome if the offensive line coach hole was filled in ... If all (Reid) had to do was make Juan the defensive coordinator, my own belief from listening to him is that that would have happened fairly quickly. He felt confident about that and felt very early that it would work in the process. What he didn't want to do was move Juan and then get dramatically weaker at something that he thought was so important. And that second part is what took a long time and made it look like some indecision. By the way, we did have some coaches that were in the Super Bowl that if we hadn't gone in the direction of Juan that we would have spoken to. That was real also."
Of course, not only the Eagles find a suitable replacement for Castillo, but they brought in Howard Mudd, widely regarded as the best offensive line coach in the league. The combination of Mudd and the equally esteemed Jim Washburn to coach the defensive line is a formula that truly has Banner excited about the Eagles' prospects moving forward.
"It's almost impossible to improve your team in January and February," Banner said. "There are no players available, maybe you can re-sign some of your own players, but it's a very difficult time to improve your team. We have been open since the day Andy got here about how important the line of scrimmage is on both sides of the ball and I think if you study the teams that win, especially the teams that win consistently, their success is along the line of scrimmage.
"I don't know if there's been a time we've have two consensus literally 'the best' offensive and defensive line coaches in the league on the same team at the same time. As far as our evaluation of trying to do everything we can to make the team better from the moment we were in position to try to make moves, we're really excited about that. We think it makes a big difference. I think it's clear from all the attention and evaluation that Andy gets that people in this city, and we agree, think coaching is a very important aspect of being successful in the NFL. So, to add two coaches of such caliber in two important areas that are so highly thought of around the league, they're respected by players as well as other coaches, we're excited about that. We think it's going to make a real meaningful difference."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 5:08 p.m., February 15