Eagles fire defensive coordinator Castillo

Eagles fire defensive coordinator Castillo

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Juan Castillo's offense-to-defense coaching experiment backfired in Philadelphia, costing the defensive coordinator his job.

Castillo was fired by Eagles coach Andy Reid on Tuesday and replaced by secondary coach Todd Bowles. It was the first time Reid dismissed a coach midseason in his 14 years in charge.

``I put Juan in this situation and things didn't work out the way I had hoped,'' Reid said. ``I take full responsibility for putting him in that situation.''

Reid's decision last year to promote Castillo after 13 seasons as offensive line coach was a stunner. It came after a long search and with new defensive line coach Jim Washburn already in place running a wide-nine scheme that isn't widely used.

Castillo was under the microscope right from the start, with nearly every move he made scrutinized intensely. He seemed overmatched in his first season and the defense struggled as Philadelphia started 4-8. But Castillo's unit showed enough improvement during a season-ending four-game winning streak that he stuck around.

Until now.

``I have to do what I think is right whether it's with public opinion,'' Reid said, ``or against public opinion.''

The move came two days after the defense blew a 10-point lead with 5:18 remaining and lost 26-23 in overtime to Detroit. A week earlier, the defense allowed Pittsburgh to rally for a winning field goal in the final seconds.

The Eagles (3-3) are on a bye this week, and Reid hinted more changes could be coming. An offense that features several dynamic players is next-to-last in scoring and turning the ball over in bunches.

``Please understand that offense, defense and special teams right now, we need to get better,'' Reid said. ``I'm going to continue to work through that and it's my responsibility to do that. I'm just bringing this to you because this is what's happened so far. I'm still evaluating.''

Does that mean Michael Vick may get benched for rookie Nick Foles?

``As I sit here today, Michael's the starting quarterback,'' Reid said.

That's not much of an endorsement.

Reid doesn't have much job security himself, so he'll likely try anything to win. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie already stated in the preseason that another 8-8 season would be ``unacceptable.'' Lurie even said last year that he considered firing Reid after the team failed to live up to high expectations.

``You fight to win football games as a football team,'' Reid said. ``You try to make your football team the best possible football team they can be. You try to better yourself every day. You want your coaches to better themselves every day. You want your players to do it and you hope you have an influence on helping them become the best they can be.

``That's my job and that's how I go about doing it.''

Castillo was with the Eagles for 18 years, longer than any coach in franchise history.

``One of the tougher things I've had to do,'' Reid said.

Castillo's defense held the Lions in check for three quarters on Sunday, allowing just a pair of field goals. All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson had one catch for 28 yards and Matthew Stafford was 7 of 21 passing. But, according to defensive players, the Eagles inexplicably changed their game plan in the fourth quarter. They started blitzing more in an effort to pressure Stafford. Also, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn't shadow Johnson the way he did the first three quarters.

Stafford picked apart the defense, Johnson had a big day and the Lions scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

``I was on him most of the game,'' Asomugha said of covering Johnson. ``I think when we got to the fourth quarter, there was a lot more trying to give him a different look.''

Reid disputed that assessment a day later, saying ``there wasn't a great change of scheme on what we did in the first three quarters.''

Regardless, Castillo is gone.

Castillo joined the Eagles in 1995 as an offensive assistant under coach Ray Rhodes. He was promoted to tight ends coach in 1997, and then offensive line coach in 1998.

Bowles becomes Philadelphia's third defensive coordinator since longtime assistant Jim Johnson died in 2009 following a battle with cancer. Sean McDermott had the job for two seasons and Castillo lasted 22 games.

``I'm very familiar with the personnel,'' Bowles said. ``That's not going to be a problem. Our thing right now is to go over our self-scouting, see what we do well and what we don't do well and try to minimize the things we don't do well, if not get rid of them all together. Make sure we're playing to each player's strength.''

Bowles was 2-1 as the interim head coach for Miami last season. The former Temple star played eight seasons in the NFL as a safety, including seven years with the Washington Redskins. Bowles is in his 13th season as an assistant coach. He began his NFL coaching career with the New York Jets in 2000 as a secondary coach, spent four years in Cleveland, three in Dallas and four with the Dolphins before coming here.

``Well being a player, you can put yourself in the same situations because you've been in them so when a guy is coming to you with problems, you can refer back to your playing days,'' Bowles said. ``You don't have to agree with them. You say, `This is why you're doing this, so this is why they're doing this to you.' It just helps the relationship go a lot better.''

Reid wanted to interview Bowles after firing McDermott, but was denied permission by Miami.

``He has a good understanding of the game, not only the secondary but the whole picture,'' Reid said of Bowles. ``He gets it and he understands how to tie it all together. He's detailed with his techniques. He relates well with the players. He's a smart guy and he works hard. Those are normally good qualities to have.''

The decision comes at a critical time for the Eagles, who are just one game behind the Super Bowl-champion Giants (4-2) in the NFC East. New York is already 0-2 in the division, including a loss in Philadelphia last month. The bye allows Bowles time to set his strategy and move forward. He has to figure things out quickly, however, because the Eagles host the Atlanta Falcons (6-0) on Oct. 28.

``I don't think there will be a transition period,'' Reid said. ``I'm not looking at that as I'm making this move. He understands it and knows it. I'm not looking for transition periods right now. I'm looking for him to step in and do his job to the best of his ability with the players that he has. I think he has good football players and good coaches around him. I expect us to do better.''

If not, Reid could be next to go.


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.