In the time since Jim Washburn was relieved of his duties as defensive line coach of the Eagles, numerous stories have surfaced about Washburn’s relationship with his fellow coaches, all of them none too flattering.
Evidently, Washburn was a divisive and cantankerous individual, who showed little respect to anyone not named Howard Mudd (a rather amusing story from Pro Football Talk even claims Washburn referred to former defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, as “Juanita” on the regular).
When Washburn became even more disruptive in the wake of Jason Babin‘s release, it became clear it was time to send him packing, a mere year and a half after he had been hired.
Aside from stories indicting Washburn’s character and outlining his negative influence on the locker room, stories have also surfaced that he was never Andy Reid‘s first choice for the job to begin with. It seems it was Howie Roseman who approached Reid about hiring the former Titans D-line coach and sold the hesitant Reid on the idea.
This leaves me wondering: Was the hiring of Washburn the worst thing to ever happen to Andy Reid as head coach of the Eagles? I think so. If you look at Reid’s career arc, his rapid decline seems to coincide with the presence of Washburn. There are other contenders for the part, sure, but none of them seem as impacting as Washburn taking over the line.
There’s the death of Jim Johnson in 2009, a catastrophic event and one the Eagles still seem to be grappling with. While I certainly don’t mean to disparage someone’s death–Johnson is one of my all-time favorites and his death will always be lachrymose in my eyes–the Birds did make the playoffs in the two years directly after he passed. Reid seemed to recover from that.
There’s the trade of Donovan McNabb and the subsequent anointing of Michael Vick as the starter when Kevin Kolb got hurt. Another error, maybe. But McNabb didn’t exactly have success in his post-Eagles seasons, and Vick did lead this team to one playoff appearance and led a record-breaking offense that was hampered by a terrible defense in 2011. So scratch that.
Finally, there’s the hiring of the aforementioned Castillo. Now, while this one seems to make sense as the worst thing to ever happen to Reid, it was actually directly impacted by the hiring of Washburn. Reid had interviewed other candidates for defensive coordinator, but all of them were reticent to take the position, knowing they’d have to work with Washburn and be forced to operate with the Wide-9 defense. Castillo was an in-house candidate and likely more willing to toe the company line for an opportunity at a promotion. Had Washburn not been hired, there’s a good chance Castillo never becomes the defensive coordinator.
All roads lead back to Washburn.
I certainly don’t intend to make Reid a victim here. If you’ve followed the Eagles during Reid’s tenure, you understand that he has final say on all football-related matters. It’s a phrase that has been driven into the ground. So Washburn never would’ve been in Philly without Reid’s blessing.
But I can’t help but wonder: Ten years from now, when the Reid era is seen as a time of prosperity, but not ultimate success, when Reid is looking back and wondering what could have been, if he won’t kick himself for agreeing to hire Jim Washburn–the man who ultimately cost him his job and his chance at finally bringing a Super Bowl to Philadelphia.Tags: Andy Reid, coach, defense, defensive line, Donovan McNabb, Eagles, Football, Jason Babin, Jim Washburn, Juan Castillo, Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, NFC, NFL, Philadelphia, Titans