Steve Spagnuolo Coming Back to Eagles?

Steve Spagnuolo Coming Back to Eagles?

Andy Reid appears to have saved his job in Philadelphia, if it was ever truly on the line, and a recent surge on the defensive side of the ball had fans wondering whether Juan Castillo had done the same. For much of the season, Castillo appeared primed to be the fall guy whether Reid stayed or not. Now, according to one report, Castillo may indeed be out, with the Eagles bringing a familiar face back into the organization.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Steve Spagnuolo will be fired by the St. Louis Rams, replaced by current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Spags has a soft landing in place though, if this report has any validity. Per Acee's sources, it is "all but certain" that Spagnuolo will be named the Eagles defensive coordinator. That's a lot of possibilities that need to become realities in order for everything to shake out as described... But it's not farfetched to think Spagnuolo would be on the Eagles' short list if he's available and Castillo is shown the door.

Spagnuolo was a popular position coach for the Eagles from 1999-2006, when he led the linebackers and defensive backs under Jim Johnson. He then had an excellent but brief stay as defensive coordinator of the Giants, who went on beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Most Eagles fans probably remember not knowing who to root for in that one, but Spags being the architect of the winning defense softened the blow some.

Spagnuolo was a hot commodity when hired to be the head coach of the Rams in 2009, but things ultimately didn't go well for him in St. Louis, and it appears all but certain he'll coach his final game for them against the 49ers this weekend. He has one year left on his contract with the Rams.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some sobering notes on how historically bad the Rams' 2-13 season has been—and not just on the offensive side of the ball. After a 1-15 first season in StL, Spags coached the Rams to a very respectable 7-9 mark last year. However, even before the 2011 season began, you could see that the team faced a brutal schedule, and injuries to Sam Bradford and even backup AJ Feeley made a winning season even less likely.

For the Eagles, it's a timeline that appears to have been off by one year. Had Spagnuolo's Rams run ended in 2010, he might have been the perfect fit for a Philly team that was making headlines by targeting top talent once the league's hiatus ended. There were initially very few voices of dissent about the players they brought in, but Castillo was seen as a likely Reid mistake from day one, having never coached in a defensive capacity at the NFL level. It took his unit a long time to gel, but it lately has (albeit against some lesser quarterbacks).

Many Eagles fans won't lay all the blame at Castillo's feet, either. He had a lockout-shortened off-season, some questionable personnel, and an offense with a penchant for giving short fields due to turnovers. Castillo's failures will be seen as an extension of Reid's.

If the report is true and Spagnuolo is hired, the announcement will be far more popular than when we found out the offensive line coach was taking over the defense, with assistants already firmly in place. Many questions will still need to be answered if Spagnuolo does indeed come back to Philly, including what he'll do about the personnel he may inherit in his coaches and players.

We'll take a closer look as to what a Spagnuolo return could mean once it's closer to official. Again, this is just a preliminary report with unnamed sources, and Spagnuolo is still set to coach a game for the Rams while Castillo is at the defensive helm for the Eagles at least through the week. While it's certainly possible the Birds would want him back, what's surprising here is that anyone with certain knowledge of such a plan would have let it get to a reporter. The Eagles don't usually operate that way, and it'd be disrespectful to Castillo, whom they've highly regarded for years. We'll see how it plays out.

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Photo by Scott Rovak-US Presswire

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons trust the NFL draft process on the parkway

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons trust the NFL draft process on the parkway

When fans came to Philadelphia to see the future of the NFL, they got a glimpse of the Sixers’ future too.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons walked through the draft festivities on Thursday surrounded by fans. 

Embiid posted an Instagram video soaking in a -- you guessed it -- “Trust the Process” chant. Check out that video above.

That night Embiid and Simmons expressed their appreciation for the crowd's enthusiastic reaction.

Humble Eagles' 14th pick Derek Barnett ready to get to work

Humble Eagles' 14th pick Derek Barnett ready to get to work

Derek Barnett, the former Tennessee defensive end, clad in an all-red, three-piece suit, stared at the landline phone in front of him in the green room at the NFL draft on the Ben Franklin Parkway.  

It wasn't ringing.

Despite his best efforts, the 20-year-old couldn't telepathically get that phone to go off. The Eagles, who he knew had some interest in him after a top-30 visit earlier in the offseason, were on the clock. But still, that landline remained silent.

Then his cell phone rang. And it was a Philly number.

"I just got very excited and I really can't explain it because everything happened so fast," Barnett said just after 11 p.m. Thursday. "But it was like a surreal moment."

When he answered the phone, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie was on the other end. Barnett was then passed around from head coach Doug Pederson to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and likely to the Eagles' two-headed personnel czar Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas.

By the time Barnett joined a conference call with reporters an hour and change later, he had already shaken hands with the commissioner, been shuffled through various media obligations and stood in front of thousands of Eagles fans.

So by 11:05 p.m., when he talked over the phone to reporters at the NovaCare Complex, nothing from his wild night had really settled in.

Of all the players who were selected on Thursday night, he was the only one who won't have to leave the city to be with his new team.

"It's very fun," Barnett said. "That means I can get to work quicker."

The humble pass rusher, who broke Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee, is the type of player that exemplifies what the Eagles are looking for, according to Roseman.

"He stands for what we want to be and I think everyone in the city will see what kind of person he is, what kind of player he is," Roseman said. "Unbelievably high character, unbelievable worker and tremendously talented and productive."

Barnett (6-foot-3, 259 pounds) finished his college career with 32 sacks and Douglas praised the young pass-rusher for his ability to finish at the top of his rush.

The Eagles took Barnett because, they say, he was the top-rated player on their board at the time (see story). But the team still has Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry and Chris Long and Marcus Smith.

Where will Barnett figure into the rotation?

"My mindset is to help the team anyway I can," Barnett said. "I know I have to come in and work hard and earn the respect of my team first. Just because I was a first-round pick, that don't mean nothing. I have to work harder now. My plan is to come in, get around those vets, learn from them and hopefully, when the season comes around, I can be able to contribute."

While the Eagles return several pass-rushers from a year ago, the team desperately needs to find a way to sack quarterbacks, especially because Schwartz's entire defense is predicated on getting pressure with the front four and not blitzing.

Barnett is pretty excited to join the group.

"I love it," Barnett said of Schwartz's defense. "That's my style and I feel like I fit it very well and Coach Schwartz said the same thing, too. I think it's going to be a good fit."

While there was certainly some mumbling when the Barnett picked was announced on the Parkway and while plenty of fans on social media weren't thrilled with the selection (see story), the newest Eagle said he felt nothing but love.

And he can't wait to play in front of those fans on Sundays.

"Great fan base," he said. "I've been feeling the love ever since my name got called. And I was a little nervous at first, I didn't know if I was going to get the love or some boos, but I got a great welcoming and I appreciate the fans for doing that, because I had no clue where I was going to end up at."

Now, he knows. And he won't have to go far.