Juan Castillo seems like a pretty fired up dude. If his
maybe-pandering high-octane introductory press conference doesn't have you convinced, the player testimonials that Athletic writer Kevin Fishbain details probably will. At first glance, it's quite the departure from the stoicism of his predecessor, Harry Hiestand.
Of course, at the end (and also at the beginning, and in the middle) of the day, it makes no difference how engaging your offensive line coach is with the media. What matters to an NFL offense – outside of, you know, results – is how much everyone's on the same page, and it sure does sound like Matt Nagy and Juan Castillo are on the same page.
"I think we understand each other," Castillo said in June. "I think just being able to talk to Coach and Coach talking to me and we feel really comfortable. I don't know if he ever shared it, but [in Philadelphia] we were right across from each other and he was in my office a lot. And we got to spend a lot of time early in his career. So I think he feels comfortable with me. I feel comfortable going into his office and talking to him and I think that's really important."
Familiarity never hurts – especially this offseason – but that hardly changes the real problems the Bears have on their line, and in the run game. Their yards per carry (YPC) and success rate was below NFL average on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down. Per Warren Sharp, they ranked 29th in Rush Efficiency offense, 31st in explosive run offense, and 20th in pass protection efficiency. Granted, they didn't run a whole lot comparatively, but can you really blame them?
Enter Castillo, who's been behind fairly successful run games wherever he's gone. Stints in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Buffalo produced some impressive seasons from feature backs, so at the very least David Montgomery should be optimistic. But it doesn't take long for question marks to pop up. For all of the Eagles' success in the early 2000's, their offensive line play was less consistent. Football Outsiders has offensive line value stats going all the way back to 1996, and the Eagles fall all over the map during Castillo's run ('98-'10). Some units will be better than others when you spend over a dozen years in the same position, but still, it's not great; in some seasons, it's not even good. His time in Baltimore and Buffalo wasn't much different.
Realistically, right now the Bears have question marks at three positions on the line. They're not even sure where to play the two lineman they know are good. Calling it a bit of a mess would be putting it lightly, though both Charles Leno and Bobby Massie have had their moments. The Bears clearly see more of the latter than the former, which explains why, with a market featuring some definite upgrades, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy chose to go a different direction. The proverbial different voice in the room has its benefits, but enough to fix one of the league's worst-performing units in 2019? It may be one of Nagy's more fascinating leaps of faith yet.