Lions Lose Top Assistant to Potential Promotion With Panthers: Report

Duce Staley

Getty Duce Staley chats with Doug Pederson during a 2022 Lions vs. Jaguars game.

The Detroit Lions managed to hang on to one key assistant in offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, but that run of luck did not manage to hold out as the offseason gets closer to being underway.

With staff changes set to shake out in multiple ways around the league, the Lions are reportedly set to lose a key staff member to Frank Reich and the Carolina Panthers in running backs coach and assistant head coach Duce Staley.

According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, who broke the news on Wednesday, February 1, Staley will be leaving the Lions to join Reich’s staff in Carolina this coming season.

“Per sources, Lions Assistant head coach/RBs coach Duce Staley is leaving to join Frank Reich’s Carolina Panthers staff,” Graziano tweeted.

Staley was hired by Dan Campbell away from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021 when he accepted the Detroit head coaching job. The last two years as running back coach, Staley has overseen a major overhaul in terms of ground game success for the Lions.

In 2022, Detroit finished the season with a 1,000 yard rusher in Jamaal Williams, and the 11th overall rushing offense in the league, posting 128.2 yards per-game and 2,179 total yards on the season to go with 23 touchdowns.

In addition to those facts, Campbell gave Staley the title of assistant head coach on his staff, the same one bestowed upon him by Sean Payton in New Orleans.

Staley Leaving Lions for Possible Promotion

Why would Staley leave a post where he was already the assistant head coach? It’s possible the coach will get an immediate promotion, while also being able to be closer to family at a critical time.

As Detroit News reporter Justin Rogers tweeted, while it might remain unclear what Staley’s role will be, there is the potential he could call plays for Reich’s offense. Additionally, there is a personal angle being that Staley’s mother is dealing with health troubles.

“Confirming Duce Staley is leaving for Carolina. It’s still unclear what his role will be with the Panthers, but OC is in play. Lions let him go to be closer to his mother, who is dealing with some health issues,” Rogers tweeted.

The move for the Lions to allow Staley to go to be closer to home is classy from Campbell. Staley was a trusted staff member for the team, and a person on a potential internal offensive coordinator short list should Johnson have departed a few weeks back as a head coach himself.

Staley has also been seen as future head coach material, so if indeed he is being given the chance to call plays, it will represent a big promotion for him. That could prove to be a big next step for his coaching career.

Staley’s Career Biography

Fans will remember Staley for the hard-charging career he had with Philadelphia as a solid running back for the team after being a third-round pick out of South Carolina in 1997.

From 1997-2003, Staley was a running back for the Eagles before joining the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2004-2006. He captured Super Bowl XL with the Steelers in Detroit, and had a fantastic 10 year career in which he piled up 5,785 rushing yards, 24 rushing touchdowns and 10 receiving touchdowns.

Staley’s transition into a coaching role in Philadelphia starting in 2011 when he became a quality control coach for special teams. Starting in 2013, he was named the running backs coach and picked up the title of assistant head coach in 2018, which he held until his departure in 2020.

During his time with the Eagles, Staley helped in the development of multiple key running backs including LeSean McCoy, Miles Sanders, Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and others. The running game was a huge reason the Eagles captured Super Bowl LII.

In Detroit, Staley helped unlock Jamaal Williams, who set a Lions record with 17 touchdowns in 2022. D’Andre Swift, Craig Reynolds and Justin Jackson were other backs who blossomed with Staley’s tutelage. Fans also embraced his personality, which always included some viral moments whenever he was mid’d up.

With Staley’s departure, the Lions will now have to fill a couple roles on their staff for 2023 in finding a new running back coach as well as naming an assistant head coach.

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