February 24, 2020
For a guy who will be returning to the same position in 2020 that he's held for each of the last two seasons, there's been a lot of talk about Duce Staley this winter. And that has more to do with what didn't happen in Philly this offseason than anything that actually did.
When the Eagles parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Groh following their wild-card loss to the Seahawks, many thought Staley, who has been with the team since 2011, serving as the Eagles running backs coach since 2013, and was elevated to the title of assistant head coach following Frank Reich's departure in 2018 when the team opted to promote Groh to OC over Staley, was a natural fit to be the team's next coordinator, especially if they opted to make an internal move.
Then came the news that the Eagles wouldn't actually have a coordinator, given that head coach Doug Pederson is responsible for calling the plays. Instead, the team promoted QB coach Press Taylor, who will retain his previous title, to the new role of pass game coordinator. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has been the team's run game coordinator for the past couple of seasons, and will be Taylor's counterpart in the rushing attack.
Staley, meanwhile, didn't even get a chance to interview for the job. And all indications were that he wasn't happy about it, but who can blame him? That marked the third time Staley's been passed over for a major promotion — he also interviewed for the head coaching position following Chip Kelly's ouster, but the team ultimately went with Pederson instead, which seems to have worked out just fine.
Earlier this month, there was a report from The Athletic that Staley might be looking to leave Philly after another round of promotions came and went without him getting a look. The site's South Carolina reporter Josh Kendall said that Duce inquired about the running backs coach job on Will Mushamp's GameCocks staff, only to be "rebuffed." The Eagles quick denied that report as several other outlets reported that there was no truth to Staley looking into other options. However, that Staley nugget was not the headline or even a main point of Kendall's article, but rather a smaller nugget included later in a bigger story about the coaching shakeup at South Carolina. In other words, it would be a weird thing to make up.
Perhaps the truth, as it often does, lies somewhere in between. Would it be so difficult to imagine Duce Staley feeling insulted after being passed over again and reaching out to his alma mater about an opening, only to back out after Muschamp explains the rigors of recruiting and the lower salary that comes with working in the collegiate ranks? In that scenario, Staley wouldn't necessarily have been "rebuffed," which would allow the Eagles to deny the story. But it also wouldn't change the fact that Staley is looking for other opportunities. It would simply mean that Staley learned the grass isn't always greener.
But to hear the Eagles tell it, there's nothing to see here. Duce is as happy as ever. At least that's what Pederson had to say on a recent episode of the Eagles Insider Podcast with Dave Spadaro.
"I know Duce is happy to be here,” Pederson said. “He wants to be here. … Duce does a lot for me. He is the assistant head coach, let’s not forget that. He is my right-hand guy."
While that may be the case, it doesn't change the fact that the optics of passing over Staley again, especially when the team is one of just two in the NFL that haven't hired a black coordinator or head coach in over two decades, aren't great.
However, with Staley as the team's assistant head coach and the team not having a traditional offensive coordinator, there's an argument to be made that his role is even more important to Pederson and the Eagles than a OC or run/pass game coordinator role would be. And adding on those OC responsibilities would likely mean Staley would have to give up some of his current responsibilities, which include some things the Eagles think he's quite good at.
At least that's the argument Pederson made to Spadaro.
“Duce is very important to our offense, he’s very important to the running back room, obviously, and a lot of our success last year with some of the young players that played, the practice squad players that came up, is a direct result of what Duce Staley does (running) the developmental program, and that’s a lot on his plate throughout the course of the year, (and those are all) things that I evaluated as I went through this process. Duce is a valuable part to our offense and a valuable part to me and what he does for me and just at the time just decided to keep him in that role.” [via nbcsports.com]
It seems that the Eagles think Staley is too good at his current job to promote him, and while that's not something Staley will likely take much comfort in, it also provides a certain level of job security. After all, the work he's done with a makeshift group of running backs ever since the team let go of LeSean McCoy proves he's a solid NFL coach. Unfortunately, it's looking less and less likely that Duce will ever get to find out if he's anything more than that, at least in Philly.
But that won't stop Pederson from heaping on the praise — even if it's not enough to earn the team's top assistant an interview for a coordinator position after two additional years of added responsibility as assistant head coach.
“He does help run the football team if I have to step away," Pederson said. "He can take charge of the team. He runs that developmental program with the young players. He puts that all together. … Duce has his fingerprints all over that and that’s a big asset to me and obviously what he does with the running backs. You saw what Miles Sanders and Boston Scott did last year, what Jordan Howard did last year, being able to take young players and getting them to play at a high level is just a credit to what he does and also with game planning and things of that nature during the year.” [via nbcsports.com]
There's a good chance Pederson will be asked more about the offseason coaching moves, and Staley specifically, when he meets with the media on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Of course, the real person we all want to hear discuss this is Duce. Unfortunately, we might have to wait a bit before that happens.
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