In three years, Jordan Mailata has gone from a seventh-round project rugby player to a starting left tackle in the NFL.
He couldn’t have done it without Jeff Stoutland.
“Nah, of course not,” Mailata said on Thursday, just a couple days after it was announced that he won the Eagles’ left tackle battle over former first-round pick Andre Dillard.
“Coach Stoutland has played a big part of my life and my development as a player and as a person.”
Stoutland, 59, has been with the Eagles since 2013 and has become one of the best and most accomplished position coaches in franchise history. There’s a misconception that every coach in the NFL is great because they’ve reached the highest level, but players who have been around a few different teams can tell you that’s not the case.
Anyone who’s been around Stoutland will tell you how good he is.
During his first eight years with the Eagles, Stoutland’s list of accomplishments has continued to grow. Stoutland’s players have combined for six All-Pro nods and 16 Pro Bowl appearances. And Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Evan Mathis played in the league before Stoutland but didn’t reach their first Pro Bowls until he became their coach.
Last year we saw another accomplishment from Stoutland when the Eagles were forced to use 13 different offensive line combinations in 16 games because of countless injuries. Although the line was obviously shaky at times, Stoutland helped keep the ship afloat with second and third-string players. It was quite remarkable.
But perhaps the most impressive accomplishment in Stoutland’s tenure with the Eagles came on Tuesday.
Because not only was Mailata named the Eagles’ starting left tackle that day, but Army product Brett Toth also made the Eagles’ initial 53-man roster.
Mailata is a former rugby player whom Stoutland identified early and helped build into a legitimate NFL left tackle and Toth played college ball at Army, for a college team that rarely passed the ball and was away from football for an entire year after leaving West Point.
Talk about developing players.
“The thing that’s awesome about him, it doesn’t matter if you’re a one, two or three,” Toth said. “You’re not going to be able to go under the radar. You can feel it some places, they only fixate on starters. But Stout, it doesn’t matter what offensive line is in, he’s making sure you’re locked in and that every rep matters.
“He doesn’t coach guys differently and he makes sure to set the standard and anytime you don’t perform to that standard, he give you examples. He shows you what the ones are doing, shows you what you need to improve on and every day it’s about a one-up, what you can fixate on that day that you were at the standard the day prior. And just keeping making those steps to improve.”
Stoutland is a native of New York City and he definitely has the personality of someone who grew up in the Northeast. Before coming to Philadelphia, Stout was with Nick Saban in Alabama and it’s fun to imagine him in that setting. But Stout fits right in here in Philadelphia.
He can be brash and he’s always intense and direct. Stout’s style can take some getting used to for some players, but then they eventually realize the only thing that really matters: He’s making them better. And he makes everyone better, the starters, the backups, the projects, the practice squad players.
“We clash a lot,” Toth said. “The military side in me and the discipline aspect and his eyes, the gritty guy and him being from New York City, he’s another gritty guy. We clash a lot but we both know what the end goal is and the better that I get, it’s obviously good for self reflection but it’s also a product of, honestly, what he believes in us. He doesn’t give us any easy days.”
Stoutland was brought to the Eagles by Chip Kelly back in 2013 and with Duce Staley gone, he’s now the longest-tenured coach on the team.
Earlier this summer, there were some rumors that Stoutland was going to head back to Alabama but new head coach Nick Sirianni said it was a no-brainer to bring him back. Sirianni joked that he used to think he was Frank Reich’s favorite coach until he heard Reich talk about Stoutland.
It’s a good thing the Eagles were able to convince him to stay.
Just ask a few of his biggest success stories.
"For me, when I look back at my rookie years, it was kind of nice to have that coach who was pushing me to be better and wanted the best for me," Mailata said. “It’s something that I’ve adopted to my everyday life, something that he was saying to me as a rookie, now being in my fourth year, I can finally understand what he means. Just the way of life that he’s been teaching to me for three years now.
“Without Stout, I probably wouldn’t have made it this far. So I owe a lot of credit to him.”
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