A nice gesture by John Harbaugh in January of 2013 turned into a whopper of a train wreck for the Head Coach.
He took steps in an effort to fix it yesterday at the annual “State of the Ravens” press conference at the team’s facility in Owings Mills.
What did Harbaugh do?
He gave Juan Castillo the title he should have given him last January when the Ravens hired him to oversee their offensive line.
Last week as Luke and I reviewed the 2013 Ravens season, one of the topics centered on coaches and who we thought might return and who was on the bubble.
This was before Wilbert Montgomery was “moved on” for, essentially, insubordination.
As Luke and I went over the names, we eventually came to Castillo. I contended then that Harbaugh’s biggest mistake was giving Juan Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”. I can see why Harbaugh did it that way, but hindsight tells us the title was a mistake.
To give Castillo a “new” title (the Ravens didn’t have a “Run Game Coordinator” before Castillo showed up) implied he was coming in to do something so specifically different that no one else on staff could manage it. The only problem, of course, is the Ravens already had someone overseeing their run game. His name was Wilbert Montgomery. And, since a major component of running the ball is blocking for the ball carrier, they also had one of “those guys” in charge of coaching the offensive line — Andy Moeller.
Honestly, as I said last week, Harbaugh’s mistake wasn’t in hiring Castillo. He’s a bright guy with a terrific resume. John’s mistake was in giving Castillo the title of “Run Game Coordinator”. When the running game fizzled in 2013, everyone simply pointed to the new guy who came in to coordinate the running game and said, “There’s the problem!”
Look, I understand John Harbaugh and Steve Bisciotti and everyone else at Owings Mills couldn’t care less about what the “armchair quarterbacks” (aka, the fans) think about their style, scheme and methods of coaching. Frankly, the fans don’t know anything about football, truth be told. They know when a player does something well and they know when Matt Elam gets beat by A.J. Green that Elam was to blame, but the fans don’t know anything, really, about the true inner workings of all eleven players on either side of the ball and how Player A’s mistake and Player B’s inability to cover up for it leaves Player C exposed.
That said, Harbaugh and Bisciotti do owe it to the fans to review the performance of their coaches and players and determine who deserves to carry on with the team and who doesn’t.
What “the fans” think about Juan Castillo shouldn’t have anything to do with whether the Ravens keep him or not, but it’s clear from yesterday’s press conference that Harbaugh IS aware of the scrutiny and criticism his “Run Game Coordinator” endured during the recently completed 8-8 season.
That’s why Castillo is now the team’s “Offensive Line Coach”. It’s basically what he was all along, even with Moeller in the fold, but the Head Coach didn’t want to create a potential firestorm by stripping Moeller of his title.
And, for anyone who thinks Castillo was the guy who wrecked the running game, let me tell you this: He didn’t coach the running backs. Wilbert Montgomery did. As someone in the organization said to me yesterday, “Wilbert’s job was to make the running backs better. Whether or not he did that is up to you (the media) guys to decide and report on in whatever fashion you want.”
Oddly enough, the Ravens also brought in a smart football mind in 2013 to help with their defense. His name was Steve Spagnuolo. The former Rams Head Coach joined the club as their “Senior Defensive Assistant”. The Ravens defense, as we saw time and time again, couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. They had a tendency to give up the big play in the 4th quarter as the Ravens tried to steal a win or two in Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Cincinnati. Even though the defense outperformed the offense in 2013, the team’s defense was certainly a liability on a somewhat regular basis. Why, then, was Spagnuolo not the same sort of lightning rod as Castillo? One reason: Title.
Castillo’s title suggested he was going to “fix” the running game.
Spagnuolo’s title suggested he was there to watch game film with Harbaugh and play racquetball with the coaches and front office members on Tuesday afternoons.
In theory — and based on his day to day duties — Castillo was brought on board to work with the offensive line. We all know, of course, that was quite a mountain to climb for anyone…based on the personnel.
It would have helped the running game, for sure, if the offensive line that Castillo coached would have been better. And, perhaps, the running game would have been better if Castillo and Andy Moeller coached their players better.
The running game might have also performed better if the running backs were in shape when training camp started — and capable of taking the punishment of an NFL season.
Here’s the one bullet point from yesterday that was reinforced to me by a staffer: The biggest loss the team incurred – player wise – was Matt Birk. And, as the staffer emphasized, “It wasn’t even close. Our most significant loss was Birk. We’re a playoff team if he’s the center.”
Moving forward, now, Juan Castillo is the team’s Offensive Line Coach.
There’s no word what that means for Andy Moeller.
And the team currently doesn’t have a “Running Backs Coach” after the departure of Montgomery.
One thing, for sure…regardless of title, the microscope remains focused on Juan Castillo.
For better or worse, he’s the new scapegoat in town moving forward.
And Baltimore, perhaps like no other city in the country, loves themselves a good old fashioned scapegoat.
Have fun, Juan.