Andy Reid’s Power Has Never Been Greater

The Juan Castillo move is all the proof you need

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that in the wake of Andy Reid’s stunning move to elevate offensive line coach Juan Castillo to defensive coordinator that Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel has decided to put hitting coach Greg Gross in charge of the team’s pitchers. Not that, according to Reid’s logic, it wouldn’t make perfect sense. Gross spent 17 big-league seasons trying to beat pitchers, so who would be better suited to teach them all the hitters’ secrets than Gross?

Okay, I jest. But in the uncertain aftermath of Reid’s decision, there can be only one sure thing: Andy Reid’s power within the Eagles’ organization has never been greater. Giving Castillo a job for which he has had no NFL training may turn out to be a brilliant stroke. Or, it could be the type of folly that creates turmoil for the franchise. That much will be proven throughout the 2011 season -– provided there is one. What requires no wait is finding evidence that no matter how much fans and media think Reid is on somewhat shaky ground, the opposite is, in fact, true. No coach with any uncertainty would make such a move. If Reid were truly worried about his status, he would have waited until after the Super Bowl, interviewed three or four assistants from the Packers and Steelers and made a relatively safe choice. [SIGNUP]

Instead, he took one of the biggest chances imaginable. Players and coaches hold Castillo wide esteem -– for his offensive line coaching. He is a hard worker and likeable. He has built some solid lines for the Birds and appeared safe in his role for as long as Reid directed the Eagles. Even though this past season featured a slew of breakdowns that led to 49 sacks and dozens of other occasions on which Eagle QBs were under life-threatening pressure, most of that was considered a by-product of injury (Jamaal Jackson) and lousy personnel moves (especially right guard). Of course, hearing Reid gush about being able to lure former Colts O-line coach Howard Mudd out of retirement and listening to reports that he flirted with Tennessee’s highly regarded Mike Munchak as a possible upgrade may indicate that Castillo’s standing was a little shaky.

Castillo’s record provides no proof he was ready for an offensive coordinator’s spot, much less the top job on the other side of the ball. No matter how much respect he earned, Castillo wasn’t on any team’s radar for a promotion. As the longest tenured head coach in the NFL, Reid knew that. He also knew the decision to give Castillo the defensive reins would leave most of the people who cover, analyze and follow the team thunderstruck.

And he didn’t care.

Reid’s contract extends through the 2013 season. He made $5.5 million in 2010 and should be near $7 mil when the contract expires. That buys a lot of confidence, since if owner Jeffrey Lurie decides to depose his coach, he must pay out the remainder of the contract. That would allow Reid to collect big money while relaxing or search for another, higher-paying gig while still on the Eagles’ nickel. And since it has been pretty well established that Lurie is not a big fan of spending extra money -– witness several seasons in which the team operated well below the salary cap -– one would find it hard to imagine he would enjoy paying Reid and another coach concurrently. That’s a pretty good security blanket.

Reid’s decision also shows how he is the undisputed football boss at the organization’s highest levels. It’s hard to believe Joe Banner and/or Howie Roseman would be in complete agreement with a move that exposes the franchise, but it doesn’t matter. What Reid wants, he gets. The fact that neither Banner nor Roseman played the game puts them at a disadvantage against Reid in any football dispute, no matter how small, and he doesn’t hesitate to use that. Plus, when you have led a team successfully for 12 seasons, you gain influence and respect, both within the franchise and outside of it, not to mention the illusion that should you ever choose to leave, there would be no shortage of suitors for your services.

An example of Reid’s growing power throughout the league was revealed in today’s Inquirer by Jeff McLane, who reported on Reid’s efforts to find a soft landing spot for former DC Sean McDermott. A couple days before Reid axed McDermott, he called former lieutenant and new Carolina head coach Ron Rivera and tried to find McDermott a new home. Even though Reid was firing the coordinator, Rivera hired McDermott for the same position. It shows that the longer Reid stays around, the more he’ll be able to sway former assistants and younger rivals to do his bidding.

The final indication of Reid’s sturdy status within the Eagles will come in the next few days/weeks, as he fills out the staff around Castillo. Instead of hiring established hands for the linebacker and secondary spots, it’s likely Reid will elevate Mike Caldwell, who was the assistant LB coach in 2010 and has three years of NFL coaching experience to handle the ‘backers, and Mike Zordich, who has one year of full-time NFL coaching work on his resume, to lead the D-backs. Surrounding a rookie coordinator with such inexperience indicates Reid is supremely confident in his offense’s ability to overcome defensive shortcomings and is another indication he doesn’t care what others think.

This week was an emphatic show of strength by Andy Reid. While not quite the football equivalent of the Soviets’ military parades, it indicated that no matter how much fans may wish for his absence, Reid is more powerful than ever.

* The Sixers are better and more exciting, as their 20-14 record since late November indicates. But let’s not get carried away. Holding the seventh spot in the lousy East is no reason for celebration. This team still needs lots of help.

* R.I.P. Woody Fryman. The pitcher spent just four-plus seasons with the Phils in the late ‘60s and ‘70s and wasn’t spectacular (46-52 with the team), but for those of us who grew up during that time, we have fond memories of a pretty good pitcher who toiled on some rotten teams.

* So, St. Anthony’s coach Bob Hurley doesn’t want to come back here to play next year? Fine. When you win by 10, and the best player on the other team has three fouls with 3:15 left in the first half, you don’t moan about the refs, especially when you’re given the option beforehand to have striped shirts from your own area doing the game. Here’s an idea: Don’t stay away for one year; make it two or three.