The perfect storm for Big Red’s exit

Juan Castillo

What you witnessed during the 2011 season didn’t happen. The Eagles didn’t squander five fourth-quarter leads in an 8-8 season. The defense was not pitiful in the red zone under novice coordinator Juan Castillo. There is absolutely no reason for change.

Stubborn to the very end, Andy Reid said all of the above yesterday when he decided to bring Castillo back to run the defense — to be joined by a far better defensive coach, Todd Bowles, working with the secondary. It was one final insult to every Eagles fan who suffered through last season, one last gasp of arrogance by the man who thinks he invented football.

The bad news is that the Eagles will underachieve again next season, falling far short of owner Jeff Lurie’s open demand to make it to the Super Bowl. The good news is that Reid sealed his doom, unless you happen to believe Castillo can suddenly run a championship-level defense. And if you believe that, seek mental-health aid immediately. You have misplaced your mind.

Reid will finally break his silence today, and — if the suspense is killing you — here’s exactly what he will say at his first news conference in a month: Castillo really grew into the job as the season went along. The last four games showed what he can do. His work ethic and enthusiasm are the perfect recipe for success in the NFL. Blah, blah, blah.

What Reid won’t say is that Castillo got better only when the opposing quarterbacks got worse. The last four wins came against Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Stephen McGee and Rex Grossman. The two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady and Eli Manning, destroyed Castillo’s defenses for 1,069 yards and 77 points in three games. You can expect more of that in 2012.

Andy Reid is never happy unless he mixes in a sweet little twist, and his hiring of former Temple star Bowles was a master stroke. Bowles went 2-1 as the interim coach of the Dolphins last season after Tony Sparano was fired. Bowles has interviewed for five head-coaching jobs in the NFL and has been a defensive coach in the league for 12 years. Castillo has coached defense for one year, and has never interviewed for a head job. And now Bowles will work for Castillo. Perfect.

In the course of 10 hours last Friday, I was greeted by a card dealer in a casino and by the GM of a fine restaurant with the exact same unsolicited message: “Fire Andy Reid,” they said. So have literally hundreds of fans calling into my WIP radio show in the past few months.

Well, there’s no need to worry anymore. Because yesterday, Andy Reid
fired himself.

Slamming the door

Brad Lidge, the World Series hero who slammed the door 48 consecutive times in 2008, got the rudest of sendoffs. In fact, he got the door slammed in his face, by a team with a cold heart.

Now please don’t interpret the above words as a lament that the Phils didn’t re-sign their closer. Lidge has lost his fastball, and with it his effectiveness. Even at the $1 million figure he accepted in Washington, he is a luxury the Phillies had no reason to indulge.

The issue here is not what GM Ruben Amaro did in saying goodbye to the most likeable and accessible Phillies player. The issue is the way Amaro dumped him, with a broken promise.
According to Lidge, Amaro told him there would be a place for him if the pitcher couldn’t find a closer’s job. The honest and fair thing to do was to tell Lidge the truth. Instead, Amaro strung him along for close to three months, and then reneged on his original pledge.

If Lidge didn’t deserve better treatment than that, who does? The Phillies have won two championships, and he was directly responsible for one. He was the player who best understood the fans, absorbing their criticism with grace and dignity throughout the past three frustrating seasons.

Even in this instant-gratification world, there has to be room for someone who did something so spectacular — and in such an engaging way — that he elevates himself beyond the numbers on a budget sheet or an age on a birth certificate. Brad Lidge was that man.

Blame Bryz for shootouts

Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, and he was relieved 24 times last season. Ilya Bryzgalov is most definitely NOT the best goaltender in hockey, so why is it so terrible to replace him in shootouts?

I know, I know. Baseball is not hockey. Pitchers are not goalies. I get it. But none of those lazy generalities address the simple proposition that the Flyers have the best chance to win OT games — and improve their playoff seeding — by removing an inept shootout goaltender and installing an exceptional one, Sergei Bobrovsky.

Don’t take my word for it. Just listen to Claude Giroux. He said that, in practice, Bobrovsky is impossible to beat in a breakaway or on a penalty shot. The Flyers had just won the last game before the All-Star break after the backup goalie had stoned Florida on all three shootout attempts
.
“You saw how good he is,” Giroux said then.

Yes, we did. And we have seen how terrible Bryzgalov is, too. The goalie was undressed twice in a loss last week to Colorado, making him 0-for-5 in shootout attempts this season. Right now a Bernie Parent statue would have a better chance of stopping the puck.

– Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP’s Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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