It's funny how as soon as a guy like Jim Washburn is fired, everyone hurries to give him the hardest kick out the door. Clearly there were major reasons to fire Washburn, including his apparent unwillingness to play some youngsters and especially his insubordinate treatment of "Juanita" Castillo.
But there's a big difference between calling the firing justified and retroactively arguing that Washburn was a horrible coach from the start. A great example of this contradiction occurs in Reuben Frank's column this week about Washburn, in which he says "Hiring disruptive Washburn mistake from Day 1." On one hand, Roob makes some solid points:
The whole thing was built the wrong way. You can’t hire a defensive line coach and then a coordinator. It takes the traditional power structure of a coaching staff and makes a mockery of it. How could Castillo be expected to lead that defensive meeting room when one of his own coaches was conspiring against him?
Absolutely true. Giving Washburn his own fiefdom within the defense was dangerous, and it undermined Castillo's authority. That said, a firmer hand from Reid could have solved such issues. He never should have tolerated dissent from an assistant coach, even if that coach had reasons to look down on the coordinator. Would Reid of a decade ago let this thing fester? I doubt it very much.
But Roob quickly takes us onto more specious ground:
The current Eagles assistant coach said both Washburn and Mudd looked down on the other position coaches, held themselves in higher regard than the others and rarely interacted with their colleagues.
The evidence for this assertion, apparently, is that Mudd and Washburn always hung out together, instead of with the group. Doesn't this just seem like the logical extension of their friendship? We know that Mudd only came back to coach the Eagles because of the opportunity to work with his friend. And neither coach had any ties to Philadelphia, to Reid, or any of the other assistants. But, most importantly, this charge was never leveled while they were doing a good job.
Speaking of which, here's where Roob goes off the rails:
Washburn was actually a very good coach when it came to teaching young guys technique and getting them to play hard.
But his system was flawed. The Wide 9 doesn’t work.
Even last year, when the Eagles registered a league-best 50 sacks, the stats were hollow as the losses piled up week after week. And this year, we’ve seen the scheme continually put the Eagles’ safeties in difficult or impossible situations while the sack numbers dwindled.
Can you spot the glaring contradiction? The wide nine, Roob asserts, "doesn't work." Period, end of story. Other than the "league-best 50 sacks" and the fact that Washburn was "a very good coach" at teaching and motivating his players. If that's what a poor, ineffective coach looks like, I'd like to see a great one.
Once we get away from the bizarrely black-and-white statements, Roob tries to make a valid point about the wide nine putting the linebackers and safeties in too tough of a spot. That's true, on its face. Kurt Coleman certainly struggles combining run assignments with pass coverage duties. On the other hand, it's Kurt Coleman. He would probably struggle with those things anyway.
You can't blame Washburn for the personnel deficiencies of the back seven. Safety was a problem last year, and the Eagles did nothing to fix that spot. The run defense improved dramatically this season after the team sunk some NFL-quality resources into the linebacker corps. Plus, if anyone cared to take notice, the defense is actually ranked 8th against the run, according to Football Outsiders.
Pass defense has been the biggest liability, but I don't think Washburn deserves most of the blame there either. Over the last few weeks, we've seen so many receivers run free through the Eagles secondary. The coverage breakdowns have been astounding, and on no level can you pin that on the wide nine. There's still an issue of the decline in pass rush production. But are we really confident that people have "figured out the wide nine"? Everyone knew what it was last year, when the line racked up sacks galore. They knew what it was for years when Washburn was coaching in Tennessee.
Sure, being predictable is a negative, and Washburn has to take responsibility for his unit's decline. But are you confident pinning the blame on him when many of the players the team counted on to replicate their performance are aging vets? I'm not.
Did Washburn deserve to be fired? Yes. (That's answer you'll get for most Eagles coaches right now.) But it's absurd for Roob or anyone else to make such a simplistic argument after the fact, forgetting that not too long ago he was calling Washburn a "highly regarded veteran" and "legendary" coach.
Photo from Getty.