Philadelphia is obsessed with the past. Sometimes you don’t even have to win, you just have to come close. Buddy Ryan is one of the most beloved coaches in Philadelphia history even though he did nothing in the playoffs. The 93 team was beloved as they embodied the “lunch pail” attitude of this city, yet they came up short. One of those players was Duce Staley.
Duce Staley was a fan favorite in this town and during the Eagles rebuild of the late 90’s there was one name that was guaranteed to be heard bellowing from the Vet; “DUCCEEEEEE.” Back to back 1,000 yard seasons in 1998 and 1999 will do that. He was only able to rush for 1000 yards once more in his career but that didn’t stop the fans from loving #22. After his career was done on the field, Staley did what many former players have done, transitioned into coaching. And fans have trouble separating the player they loved from the coach who is moving on.
I am aware I am going to piss some people off with this. People who will take it as a personal attack. People who have never met Duce but somehow feel a connection to him. I am ok with that. Sometimes you need to wake up from the lie you’ve been telling yourself. Once again; separate the player from the coach.
The last 2 weeks all Ive heard is that the Eagles didn’t give Duce Staley a shot. Fans were outraged that the Eagles didn’t promote Duce Staley to head coach. Wishing him well as he asks for his release, but shaking their fist at the organization for not promoting the running backs coach. But why? Other than his name, why are you so upset?
I have a theory; Fans recognize his name so they feel like he deserves a shot. That’s it. Ignore what hes done as a coach. Ignore the fact hes barely done anything to improve his resume. You recognize his name, so he deserves a shot. That’s not the way life works. I grew up believing hard work pays off. But when you become an adult you learn that hard work doesn’t pay off when there’s another candidate that’s better than you. Boston Scott tries his hardest, but he isn’t better than Miles Sanders. Longevity doesn’t earn you playing time, talent does. Longevity doesn’t earn you a job. Neither does a name. But apparently, to a sect of the Eagles fan base, a name is enough to get outraged over.
A couple of questions as you stew at your desk over the words Ive already written.
- Who was the last running backs coach who was elevated to head coach?
- What teams were looking to interview Duce for their offensive coordinator position?
- What did he do to deserve a promotion?
To answer those questions really quickly.
- I couldn’t find one. At least not one that was a full time head coaching job. There was Eric Studsville in 2010 who took over for Josh McDaniel’s as the Bronco’s interim head coach. But when the new season started he went right back to being the running backs coach.
- None. Duce will join Dan Campbell’s staff in Detroit, so obviously teams were interested in him. But no one was requesting to interview him for a promotion (either offensive coordinator or head coach)
- Be named Duce Staley.
Here are the facts. The Eagles offered Duce Staley the offensive coordinator job in 2017. He turned it down. The job did not come with play calling duties, so he passed. Some might say “well then it wasn’t a real offer!” But it certainly was. You have to remember, Doug Pederson wasn’t calling plays in Kansas City, and he wasn’t giving up play calling duties in Philly. Sure, Andy Reid let him call a few plays in the playoffs…..apparently. But Pederson’s line of thinking was “I got a head coaching job without calling plays! Andy called the plays. So you don’t have to call plays to get a head coaching gig.” It may be a flawed concept, as they failed to hire an offensive coordinator this past year. Instead they hired a bunch of offensive advisors. They tried to hire Graham Harrell from USC but he, like Duce, wanted play calling duties. And he, like Duce, said thanks, but no thanks.
So the offer in 2017 was a real offer. It was also a resume builder. Something that Duce Staley didnt really have. When John Harbaugh wanted to start getting on teams radar as a potential coaching candidate he built his resume. Realizing teams weren’t going to hire a special teams coordinator, even though he was considered one of the best in the league. He went to Andy Reid and requested a switch and Andy had him coach the secondary. It was out of his comfort zone and it worked. The Ravens came calling a year later. Duce Staley was a running back. He coached the running backs. Since 2013 he has focused on one position. A position mind you that teams arent valuing like they once did. That probably cost him.
His coaching career started in 2011 as a quality controls coach. He was elevated to running backs coach in 2013. He was given the title of “assistant head coach” in 2018. Did that title come with any extra added responsibility? Or was it simply something he could put on the resume/become the head coach if Doug Pederson was ever ejected. I think it may have been the latter. But that’s just my guess.
So in 2013 Staley became the running backs coach, a position hes been in for the past 8 years. But who did he take over for? Ill give you time to google it because I don’t expect you to know. His name was Ted Williams and he was the Eagles running backs coach from 1997-2012. Meaning he was the running backs coach during Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy. Yet there was no outcry when the Eagles moved on from Andy Reid that they werent interviewing Ted Williams. He was clearly a good running backs coach. He even served as the tight ends coach in 95-96. Yet there was no outrage. There was no mention of his name. Because he was a running backs coach.
Jeff Stoutland is considered one of the best offensive line coaches in the league. He took over the Eagles O-Line in 2013, the same year that Duce took over as the running backs coach. There wasn’t a mention by anyone that Jeff Stoutland deserved a shot. Nor should there have been. So the argument that Duce put in the time and deserved a promotion BECAUSE he put in the time needs to go away. That’s not the way the NFL works.
You may point to former players stumping for Duce. Very impressive stuff, yet look at who these former players are. Malcolm Jenkins, Brandon Graham, Rodney McLeod. All big names, but all played on the defensive side of the ball. Former Eagles wide receiver Bryce Treggs also endorsed Staley. And when Bryce Treggs speaks, you MUST listen (sarcastic font.) In fact, the only former running back to speak highly of Duce was LaGarette Blount. But 99% of the players who were endorsing Duce weren’t actually coached by Duce. To me, it seem’d like current players who see a former player working hard and they want him to get a shot. And I respect that, but that’s not the way the NFL works.
You also cant ignore the elephant in the room. The NFL has a problem in their reluctance to hire African American coaches. The Rooney rule was good in theory, but has been an epic disaster. Hollow interviews when the team, and candidate know that they are wasting each others time. IF Eric Bieniemy isn’t named head coach of the Houston Texans then the problem is bigger than previously thought (and its already thought to be a massive problem.) You look at the Tampa Bay Bucs coaching staff and its a refreshing sight. Its should be the norm, and unfortunately it isn’t yet. That is a problem. But Duce Staley not getting the job is the wrong example to point to.
If you were a Duce fan, I don’t expect to change your mind. You’ve probably already cursed me out 2 paragraphs in. Its the day and age we live in. Its hard to change opinions, even with facts. But if you’re of the camp that Duce got screwed over then please, tell me what he DID as a COACH to earn the promotion to head coach. I was never impressed with his rotations. The Eagles didn’t run the ball much, so it was very frustrating when they finally would and it would be Boston Scott getting carries over Miles Sanders. His rotations, dating back to Chip Kelly, weren’t anything to write home about.
I wish Duce the best, but I do hope we, as a fan base, learn from this. Just because you recognize the name DOES NOT MEAN that person deserves a promotion. It doesn’t mean that the person was screwed BECAUSE you remember them fondly running between the tackles. Sometimes it simply means that they weren’t ready for the job. Sometimes it means that there were better candidates available.
Stop being nostalgic Philly. Stop living in the past.