The Eagles brought their position coaches to meet with reporters on Monday, and Duce Staley was among them. Staley, who is the running backs coach and now also the assistant head coach, interviewed for the Eagles’ offensive coordinator vacancy this offseason. He did not get that job. Coach Doug Pederson gave Staley a new title, but Staley remains a position coach.
“I feel good about it,” Staley said Monday in his first public comments since the staff changes. “The good thing about it [is] one thing we do as an offense, coaching unit, is we come together and we all game-plan. …We all have our input. Doug would be the first one to tell you that we all just have titles, but when it all boils down, we’re all in the same room together game-planning.”
Staley, the fifth-leading rusher in franchise history, said he does not believe his goal of becoming a head coach has been sidetracked or delayed because he did not get promoted to coordinator. Of the seven head coaches hired during the offseason, six were coordinators last season. The other was former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden.
But in 2017, the Los Angeles Chargers hired Anthony Lynn after he was the running backs coach/assistant head coach in Buffalo – the same title Staley has now. (Lynn was also an interim head coach for one game.)
Staley’s title is more than ceremonial. He will get opportunities to address the entire team, something a position coach seldom does. Pederson allowed him to do it last year before the NFC championship game, and he will be called upon to do it more in 2018.
“It all starts with Doug, of course,” Staley said. “For him to trust me because we played together, we have a long history together, for him to trust me and give me that title says a lot. I’m in front of the team a little bit, so that helps.”
Pederson said at the scouting combine that he couldn’t have gone wrong with Mike Groh or Staley at offensive coordinator, but Pederson went with Groh, in part, because Groh was more involved in the passing game last season and is a former quarterback. When Staley was asked what he could do to become more involved in the passing game, he said he will keep working on it by being involved in the game-planning meetings each week. Staley worked with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland on the running game last season. He reiterated that it’s important to him to be involved in the passing game and the running game.
“One of the things I want to do with him is grow his … input with the game-planning a little bit,” Pederson said at the time. “He’s really involved with the run side of it, … If there’s a time he needs to speak to the team, obviously, in that position, he can do that for me. Just continue the day-to-day managing of that running back room. Not a lot’s going to change, but we’ll try to increase his role some.”
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Staley will again oversee a crowded backfield. A former Eagles running back who has coached high-profile players and managed potentially contentious committees, he now has a group headlined by Jay Ajayi as the clear top running back. Corey Clement and Darren Sproles are also expected to be key contributors. Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, Matt Jones, and Josh Adams are competing for roster spots.
Staley said that even though Sproles and Clement could be reliable third-down options, the Eagles will also expect Ajayi to share third-down responsibilities. He emphasizes to his running backs that the depth is a good thing – and it will reveal much about the group.
“We take pride in the competition in the room,” Staley said. “If you can win coming out of this room, you can win in the NFL. That’s the challenge, and they know it. They’ve got to buckle up.”
For the last five years, the running backs have heard Staley’s messages. Even though he’s not the coordinator, he’s in a position to deliver his messages to everyone on the roster. It’s not the job he interviewed for after the season, but it’s a job he didn’t have before.
“Just having Doug’s back, that’s number one,” Staley said. “This is a position that’s not handed down if you don’t have his back.”