Eagles feature

Jeff Stoutland reflects on Jason Kelce's retirement and their relationship

Jeff Stoutland on Monday held his first press conference since Jason Kelce's retirement.

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There was a brief comical moment on Monday afternoon during a heartfelt answer from Eagles longtime offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

Stoutland was attempting to explain the bond he shares with recently retired Jason Kelce after having coached him for the last nine seasons.

“Well, when you're with people like as long as we are, you've got to realize the amount of time we put in together,” Stoutland said. “I mean, it's actually just in some round about way, it's kind of sad. We spend way more time here with these guys than we do with our own families. Way more time.”

So he and Kelce forged an unbreakable bond.

And when Kelce officially announced his retirement in early March, Stoutland and his family sat in the crowd of the Eagles’ auditorium. Kelce actually framed his speech using his favorite Stoutland quotes.

He also called Stoutland the person he thanks most for his professional career.

Kelce has moved on to his post-playing career and on Monday afternoon, Stoutland sat in the same spot where Kelce announced his retirement for a press conference of his own as the Eagles prepare to begin a mandatory minicamp. It was our first time hearing from Stoutland since the retirement of the future Hall of Famer.

“I was very happy for him, but also very sad because I feel like I lost a very close friend and a partner in this whole process,” Stoutland said. “But very happy for him because it was perfect timing and he maximized. That guy, holy smokes, you talk about not leaving anything on the table. He gave everything he had mentally, physically. I don't know what else you can ask for in a player. That's all anybody in Philly wants.”

While Kelce is no longer an NFL player, he’s still going to be involved with the team in some capacity. Kelce will be available to help his replacement Cam Jurgens and he’s already offered his phone number to sixth-round rookie center Dylan McMahon. Kelce won’t be at the facility daily and surely his podcast and ESPN job will keep him plenty busy.

But Stoutland said Kelce is welcome to visit the O-line room whenever he wants.

“Oh, God. Oh yeah, absolutely,” Stoutland said. “I made that very clear. I talked to Nick (Sirianni) about it and made it very clear to [Kelce].”

The Eagles’ offensive line room under Stoutland has been extremely collaborative over the last decade. He wants his players to take pride and ownership of what they’re doing so he challenges them daily. No one rose to the challenge quite like Kelce.

Younger players would often marvel about the high-level football conversations Kelce and Stout would have in the offensive line meeting room. Some joked it was like they spoke their own foreign language.

“These guys are your family,” Stoutland said. “And we put so much time in together and had so much fun. Really. Because the way I do it with the players and I'm not saying I'm the only (one), I'm sure other people do this too. I just want the players to be a little more engaged, like dive in deep and become (invested). 

“And so what I try to do is I'd say, ‘What's your idea for a scheme against this team, knowing the way they play four down or five down, or their penetrators or their readers?’ What would one of your plays and you'd be like, ‘Oh, I like to run … ‘ and so then you would draw it up and you'd talk about it as a group. And the next thing you know, we've built a concept. And we run that play in that game! ‘Woah, holy cow.’ 

“Now you’ve got players fighting for ideas and it’s really fun. And Kelce, something like that for him, oh, he could be creative because he's so creative. His mind is all football and it's angles and it was fun. It was great.”

Kelce was a seven-time Pro Bowler, six-time All-Pro and one of the anchors of an offensive line under Stoutland that helped with the Eagles a lot of games over the last decade. It also helped the Eagles hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the 2017 season.

While Stoutland is now widely regarded as one of the best position coaches in the league, he had never coached in the NFL before joining the Eagles in 2013. So as much as his players have learned from him, Stoutland has learned from them. He also mentioned Todd Herremans and Jason Peters, along with Kelce, among the players he learned from upon his arrival.

But no one spent as much time with Stout as Kelce did.

“I learned a lot from the players,” Stoutland said. “The players are the ones playing the game. What do you see? How do you handle this? And I think when you relate to them and you speak to them in that manner, they respect that. They appreciate that. And you actually listen. I don't just pretend. I mean, I really want to know.

“I think to hear the way other coaches had their time to coach with [Kelce], Coach (Howard) Mudd, you know, a lot of the things that we would talk about everything, all kinds of stuff. And when you have, when you let the players have that opportunity, I think it's good. It's good for everybody.”

Without Kelce, the Eagles’ longest tenured offensive lineman is Lane Johnson, who enters his 12th NFL season in 2024. The Eagles drafted Johnson with the No. 4 pick not long after hiring Stoutland in 2013.

On Monday, Stoutland said he’s already seeing Johnson up his game as a leader in Kelce’s absence. The Eagles are obviously going to miss Kelce on the field but they’re going to miss him off the field too.

Stoutland said there are several players who are already stepping up.

“I think that when a player sees the veteran leadership like Jason Kelce, they know their place,” Stoutland said. “I think when Jason decided that, ‘You know what, this is the time, the perfect time for me (to retire),’ I think in the minds of some of the other players, it was like, ‘OK, I knew my place then, but now I know my place. It's time for me to step up. It's time for me to become a leader.’ And I see that. I see that.”

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