Andy Reid and the Eagles shocked the Philadelphia sports world when they finally announced who the new defensive coordinator will be. Most thought the major reason for the firing of Sean McDermott was due to his inexperience. The rumors started to fly about former head coaches from Dick Jauron to Jim Mora Jr. to former Buddy Ryan Defensive Coordinator Jeff Fisher getting the job. But as the days turned to weeks, it was thought they were waiting till after the Super Bowl when they could interview someone from the Steelers or Packers. Throughout the weeks, name after name has been mentioned. We heard it was Mike Trgovac than Winston Moss. But yesterday a little before 5 PM, the shocking news came out. The Eagles were going to promote current Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo to Defensive Cordinator. He hadn’t coached on the defensive side of the ball since 1989 and that was at the high school level.
At first glance I had the same reaction as most my fellow Eagles Fans. How does it make any sense to promote the offensive line coach to the defensive coordinator? Reid took a huge risk by the hiring. If Castillo does not succeed, this could be the beginning of the end for Reid in Philly. But when I sat back and tried to rationally think about it. I began to start to believe that it could work. I will admit that it is a huge risk but Juan Castillo is a great coach and a great teacher.
Before hearing his name yesterday, the only thing most people knew about their new Defensive Coordinator is he was the previous offensive line coach. Castillo grew up in the small town of Port Isabel, Texas. His father died when he was young, leaving his mother the task of raising him by herself. To support her family his mother was forced to work two jobs. This laid the foundation of the hard working mentality that Juan has since adopted. He played football at the local high school and was good enough to earn a scholarship to play football Texas A&I. After his college career as a linebacker, he went undrafted in the 1981 draft. He eventually found a spot in the USFL on the San Antonio Gunslingers. He played parts of two seasons in 1984 and 1985. During that time he played linebacker but he rarely saw the field expect for his play on special teams.
Juan began his coaching journey when he was the Linebackers/Defensive Line Coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville from 1982 to 1985. He then coached at his high school where he served as the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator from 1986-1989. He was then chosen to coach a position that he had never played. He served has the offensive line coach at Texas A&M Kingsville from 1990-1994. During that time he coached 4 former pro’s, including former Eagles Guard Jermaine Mayberry. In 1995 Castillo first showed his hard work and determination at the NFL level. At the combine in Indianapolis in 1995, he approached the new Eagles Offensive Coordinator Jon Gruden about a coaching job. He told him that he wanted to work in the NFL; Gruden thanked him and told him he would pass along his information to Coach Ray Rhodes. This didn’t deter Castillo, throughout the rest of the combine; he approached Gruden numerous times and told him he wants to coach in the NFL. Throughout the rest of the combine, he practically stalked the Eagles OC. Gruden says he approached him 14 times a day for 3 days. He earned a job as an offensive assistant under Rhodes. He was later promoted to the Tight Ends coach.
Following the 1998 season after Rhodes was fired, the rumors were that Packers Quarterbacks Coach Andy Reid was going to be the Eagles Head Coach. Juan wanted to stay in Philly, so he gave Reid a visit at Lambeau Field. The crazy part is the visit took place during a snow storm. When Reid arrived at the stadium, security came up to him and explained there was a man by the name of Juan Castillo waiting for him in the parking lot. Reid later learned that Juan had slept in his car the whole night. By morning his car was almost completely covered in snow. Castillo told Reid that he wanted to coach for him and Reid had no choice but to give him the job.
Since then, Castillo has served as the Eagles Offensive Line Coach. He has made himself into one of the best in the game by having a tremendous work ethic. Former Offensive Coordinator Jon Gruden remembers getting to the Eagles Complex early every day. He would arrive at 3:17 AM everyday only to see that Castillo was already there. He would arrive at 3:03! Former Eagle defensive assistants Leslie Frazier and Ron Rivera have praised him for his knowledge about defensives. It is also rumored that Eagles Defensive Coaches would go to Castillo during the week to get his opinion. He was the Eagles offensive line coach but he was much more. Castillo has earned the reputation as one of the best and most respected coaches in the game. He has said he learned that every time he yells at a player because of a mistake, he makes sure he tells them what they did wrong and what he wants them to do. He realized that you have to take advantage of every chance you get to teach.
The Eagles took a huge risk by giving such huge responsibility to person who has never coached on the defensive side of the ball at the NFL level. Castillo has had to overcome obstacle after obstacle throughout his life. There have been many times when the easy thing to do was to just give up. Castillo has gone from a poverished Mexican American who grew up with one parent, to one of the best coaches in the most popular sport in the country. In the Eagles Media Guide he lists his favorite book as “Football Playbooks” and his favorite movie as Rocky! How can Philadelphia not love this guy! There are many people who would not want to try to go from the offensive line coach to DC but Juan relishes the opportunity. I would be willing to bet that while you are reading this, Juan is watching film and trying to find ways to improve the defense. There may be smarter football minds out there, but there is not one who will work harder. If there is one person in the world that can make this kind of move a success, his name is Juan Castillo!