How the Lions are preparing Staley to be a head coach


He played 105 games as an Eagle and coached another 184, so that’s 289 games that Duce Staley spent on the Eagles’ sideline.

On Sunday, for the first time, he’ll be on the opposite sideline.

“You know what, I think I’m past the emotional part of it,” Staley told reporters covering the Lions Thursday in Allen Park, Mich. “Of course I had a lot of great memories there, both as a player and as a coach. A lot of memories.

“That’s a great organization, bunch of great people there. Have a lot of great relationships still to this day and get a chance to call every now and then to check on them, they check on me. Great to have friends like that.”

Staley played for the Eagles from 1997 through 2003, rushing for 4,807 yards and catching 275 passes. He spent three years with the Steelers – he was inactive for the 2004 Eagles-Steelers game at Heinz Field – and after a few years out of the NFL he spent 11 years coaching with the Eagles under Andy Reid, Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson.

When Eagles owner Jeff Lurie chose Nick Sirianni to run the franchise instead of Staley, Duce joined Dan Campbell’s Lions staff as running backs coach and assistant head coach.

Campbell and Staley both played in the NFC East from 1997 through 2003, so even though they didn’t know each other, Campbell was a fan.

“Duce was just in the NFC East and playing against him … I could just tell he was my type of guy,” Campbell said. “And once we started coaching I’d see him on the road all the time and we’d talk and watching him work and his passion for it and his knowledge, and Philly, their backs were always good, man. They were always humming. Didn’t matter who it was he had them coached up. You could tell he knew how to develop talent.”

Staley, 46, will be an NFL head coach. You can make a pretty good case that he should be one already. Perhaps in Philadelphia.

Campbell doesn’t take the assistant head coach title lightly. He gives Duce a lot of responsibilities that are all designed to help prepare him for that head coaching opportunity.

“I’ll have him break the team down before we even go out, he gives the keys to victory before we leave the locker room game day, I had a bunch of stuff in the spring where he was dealing out player fines, working with one of my assistants to do some of the administrative stuff that goes with head coaching, and there’ll be (times) where he does install for short yardage, goal-line, blitz, all those things for our offense, and then there’ll be things where I’ll get him up in front of them team to set the tone for the week. 

“Shoot, man, there’ll be times where, all right, it’s time for a red-zone report or a third-down report in front of the team so I try to get him in front of those guys as much as I can so he gets a feel of that. I keep him abreast of the roster, different moves that we’re making. He’s been a real asset for me, man. He does a lot of things I don’t even see or need to see. He stomps out a lot of fires, that’s a part of it too.

Staley already has a piece of Eagles-Lions history. He was in his first year as Kelly's running backs coach in 2013, the last time the Eagles beat the Lions. They've lost three straight since.

That 2013 Eagles-Lions game was played in a surprise snowstorm that dropped eight inches of snow on Philadelphia. The Eagles scored a franchise-record 28 4th-quarter points to overcome a 14-point deficit and beat the Lions 34-20.

LeSean McCoy rushed for 217 yards – 148 in the 4th quarter – and Nick Foles threw a 19-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson during the height of the blizzard.

“The forecast came out and it was sunny,” Staley recalled with a laugh. All I remember is McCoy (going) for over 200 yards rushing. It was a fun game and you couldn’t find the end zone, you couldn’t find the goal line, you saw the goal posts, and I believe when DeSean caught that pass he was behind the end zone, but they called it a touchdown.”

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