Since the end of the Ravens’ first playoffless season since 2007, the lightning rod of the coaching staff has been Juan Castillo.
That’s what happens when your title is run-game coordinator and the team’s ground game finishes 30th in the NFL with a team record-worst 1,328 yards.
It doesn’t matter that Castillo has been a renowned NFL assistant for nearly two decades. Branded with that title and combined with those results, fans will point blaming fingers in his direction.
However, coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that Castillo isn’t going anywhere. Castillo will return to the Ravens in 2014 with a title more befitting his job - offensive line coach.
Harbaugh went into depth about why the team is making the title change and explained Castillo’s role on the staff.
“I can understand why Juan is a lightning rod right now because of the way that was set up and structured. Then, we go into the season, and we have our worst year ever running the ball, and he’s got that title,” Harbaugh said. “So that’s on me. When we hired Juan, and we added Juan and had a chance to add Juan last year, the idea was to add another great coach into our mix. Juan functioned as the lead offensive line coach last year; that was his job. The title was a way to have three great offensive line coaches in our mix right there.
“Andy (Moeller) had a big contribution last year, was a little bit different than he had the year before. It wasn’t the same as he had when he was with John Matsko. So we had three guys working together, and I thought it was going to be a really good mix. And I thought those guys did a really good job of coaching together. We didn’t get the result we wanted to get. But Juan was the offensive line coach. And the titles going forward - and that’s one of the things that Ozzie (Newsome) and I talked a lot about, and I talked a lot with Juan about this and talked with Andy about this - Juan’s title is going to be the offensive line coach. That’s the way he worked last year; he worked as an offensive line coach.”
Harbaugh didn’t seem to think that Castillo deserved all the blame and vitriol being hurled his way.
“The offensive line coach works the run schemes and the pass protection schemes. He is pretty much out front and leads on that, but the offensive coordinator is in charge of the offense,” Harbaugh said. “He organizes the offense and decides exactly how we’re going to do the details of that. Then I’m on top of that, and I make all the final decisions as far as what direction we go and how we do it. So it really didn’t function any differently last year than it had the year before or the four years before that, and that’s the way it worked. Going forward, our plan right now is to improve, is to get better. There are a lot of things that we didn’t do well as a coaching staff, and we look at ourselves first.
“We’ve got to do a better job of putting our players in a position to make plays - offense, defense and special teams. If we find a way to score another couple touchdowns in the red zone, we’re in the playoffs. If we find a way to eliminate a couple turnovers, we’re in the playoffs. If we find a way to get a stop in a critical situation at the end of a game - even right to the Cincinnati game - if we do just a little bit more of that, we’re in the playoffs. But that’s the fine line of the National Football League. That’s what makes the league so great - what we’re talking about. That is why it’s so exciting and so competitive.
“But we’ve got to find a way as a coaching staff to get the very most out of the players that we have, and that’s what I’m working on right now, along with Ozzie and Steve (Bisciotti) and Dick (Cass) and our coaching staff. Let’s set this thing up as well as we possibly can with our staff, working together, utilizing everybody’s strengths, balancing our weaknesses with a lot of great coaches, and building schemes that are going to make us the best we can be next year. And that’s what we’re going to try to do. So Juan will be the offensive line coach next year. The rest of it is a little bit in flux right now. We’re two weeks earlier to this probably - two, three, four weeks even - than we have been in the past. We’ve been coaching football games at this point in time. So as all this NFL coaching drama goes on, some of our guys are involved in that, and we’ll just have to see how it shakes out. But we’re going to build a great coaching staff again this year.”