Yesterday, in the early afternoon, before the team sale news broke, The Athletic’s Ben Standig tweeted about three offensive coaching moves that Washington is likely to make in the coming months.
Mentioned this on a recent pod, but expect to see Juan Castillo, a longtime OL coach, with the OL more this year. Run-game coordinator title may be coming.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) May 12, 2023
Travelle Wharton will be official OL coach. Todd Storm likely candidate to replace Castillo as TE coach. pic.twitter.com/4olIGtv2Rz
There’s been conversation that, while these changes have already taken effect, in practice, that Ron Rivera is delaying making them official until the new ownership group is in place.
Ron Rivera said Travelle Wharton will be the Commanders' offensive line coach. Eric Bieniemy has restructured the offensive staff, but they're waiting until there's more clarity with ownership.— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) April 29, 2023
I’ll use this piece as an opportunity to do a brief exploration into each of the likely coaching changes, which primarily appear to be promotions or lateral shifts in responsibility.
Juan Castillo - TE Coach to Assistant OL Coach/Run Game Coordinator
Castillo was brought on last year as a replacement for former tight ends coach and legend, Pete Hoener. Hoener left big shoes to fill, and Castillo, who hadn’t been a tight ends coach since 1997, didn’t appear to do much last year to bring the tight end room along. Shifting Castillo to help with the offensive line seems like a much more natural, and logical spot. Castillo was an offensive line coach for the Eagles, Ravens, Bill, and Bears for most of the past two decades.
Something to maybe watch for Commanders - Juan Castillo coached tight ends last season but coached OLine for years under Andy Reid. Yeah, the same Andy Reid that Eric Bieniemy coached under. Gotta imagine new OLine coach is EB’s call now.— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) March 14, 2023
A fan poll that I ran in an article about potential coaching turnover this offseason indicated that the tight end coaching room was the unit fans most wanted to see upgraded, collecting 39% of the votes cast.
Curiously, it appears that Castillo may have been instrumental in taking Cole Turner in the draft last year. Turner had two receptions for 23 yards during his rookie season.
New #Commanders TE Cole Turner just told us Washington's TE coach Juan Castillo called him before the third day of the draft started on Saturday morning and told him that the Commanders were hoping to draft him that day.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) May 2, 2022
Two rounds and dozens of picks later, they picked Turner.
Todd Storm - Assistant Tight Ends Coach to Tight Ends Coach
Storm - who has a near perfect tight end name - worked alongside Hoener in Carolina in 2018 and 2019, and then came over with him to Washington in 2020, working as the offensive quality control and assistant tight ends coach since then. In his bio on the Commanders’ site, he is specifically called out as helping John Bates develop in 2021.
From 2014-16, Storm was a graduate assistant at Central Michigan University. In 2014, he worked with the defensive line and transitioned to the offensive line during the 2015-16 seasons.
Prior to his work at CMU, Storm played the 2013 season as a defensive end in the Arena Football League with the Cleveland Gladiators and registered three sacks. In 2012, Storm was invited to the Detroit Lions Rookie Mini Camp.
Storm graduated from Michigan Tech in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He also completed his masters in sports administration in 2016 at Central Michigan University.
During his time at Michigan Tech, he played defensive end for the Huskies and was twice named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year. He also received All-Region Honors twice as well as unanimous All-American accolades following his senior campaign.
Details on Storm are otherwise pretty difficult to come across. Could he be a worthy inheritor of Hoener’s legacy? Bates looked good in 2021.
Travelle Wharton - Assistant Offensive Line Coach to Offensive Line Coach
Wharton has been Washington’s Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the past 4 years, working with long time Rivera OL coach, John Matsko. With Matsko’s departure this offseason, there has been considerable speculation - as well as direct statements - that Wharton will be elevated into that role.
Rivera said that Travelle Wharton is going to be the offensive line coach— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWC) April 29, 2023
His likely promotion was also bolstered by the fact that Wharton served as one of the offensive line coaches in the Senior Bowl this offseason, perhaps foreshadowing an enhanced role with the Commanders.
OFFENSE - National Team OL Roster coached by @Commanders Assistant OL Coach Travelle Wharton @TravelleWharton #HTTC and @HoustonTexans Offensive Assistant Jarrod James @JarrodJames51 #WeAreTexans #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ pic.twitter.com/XL4ncZQcsl— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) January 20, 2023
Wharton played as an offensive lineman for both the Panthers and the Bengals from 2004-2013, before retiring and then taking his first coaching job in 2015, serving as the offensive line coach at his alma mater, the University of South Carolina.
It’s little surprise that, after bringing in Eric Bieniemy as the team’s new offensive coordinator, the team is reconfiguring its offensive coaching staff. The moves above would be added to the replacement of the team’s former wide receiver coach, Drew Terrell, with Bobby Engram.
With relatively young assistants in the wings, this will represent a good opportunity for Bieniemy to mold his staff, and to truly create an offensive in his own image.
Added Note: Though it was announced in early March, I somehow missed that the team had hired Sean Toub as an offensive quality control coach. Toub is the son of Chiefs’ spectacular special teams coordinator Dave Toub, and was surely an addition advocated for by Bieniemy.
Which of these moves do you welcome most?
This poll is closed
Juan Castillo to Asst OL
Todd Storm to TE Coach
Travelle Wharton to OL Coach