After a disappointing year in 2013, especially on the offensive side of the ball, it was obvious there would be a lot of changes on the Ravens coaching staff. While the lack of production could have largely been attributed to injuries and a lack of weapons, someone or several people were going to have to be held accountable. Fair or not, that’s the nature of the NFL.
Wilbert Montgomery was fired and the writing was on the wall for Andy Moeller when Juan Castillo’s title was changed from “run game coordinator” to offensive line coach.
The Lions did the Ravens a favor and helped them avoid what could have potentially been an awkward situation when they hired Jim Caldwell as their head coach. It’s not often a guy goes from interviewing for head coaching vacancies, to likely being fired from his coordinator position if he doesn’t land one, but that likely would have been the case for Caldwell. It was time for a change.
John Harbaugh raised some eyebrows at the Ravens end of year press conference with his unwavering loyalty to Juan Castillo. The Ravens were coming off a franchise low in YPC. Shouldn’t the “run game coordinator” be the one to fall on the sword? There were rumblings that players were unhappy with his scheme and he came on too strong. Some fans thought Harbaugh was letting his friendship with Castillo cloud his better judgement. It’s something that owner Steve Bisciotti discussed shortly after Harbaugh made the announcement they would retain Castillo.
“I understand why fans want him out of here,” Bisciotti said. “To get one of the best offensive lines coaches in the last 20 years and then put up the kind of numbers we put up. But it’s not like he was some unqualified guy who came in. Some say John just hired his friend, but everybody is somebody’s friend. You don’t hire total strangers. You call around and ask who would you recommend, who is a good, up and coming coach or who is an icon?”
Now through the first four weeks of the season, it’s becoming more and more obvious that Harbaugh got this right. While Gary Kubiak is getting a lot of the credit – as he should – Juan Castillo deserves praise as well.
The Ravens offensive line hasn’t allowed Flacco to be sacked in three games, which is the longest streak of his career. The offensive line has dominated the line of scrimmage, and the Ravens have one of the best rushing attacks with journeyman Justin Forsett emerging as the team’s lead back.
Not to mention this past week this was all done with a 2013 fifth round pick starting at right tackle, and an undrafted rookie free agent who had never played a snap in the NFL protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side.
When Harbaugh hired Juan Castillo, he said, “I would say Juan is maybe the finest teacher of football in the National Football League, he teaches the game as well anyone you’re ever going to see, and those guys – they like to work for him.”
Considering the lightning rod of criticism that Castillo was for all of 2013, the least we can do is give him a pat on the back for what we’ve seen so far this year.