The Philadelphia Eagles have reportedly been in contact with Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley about their head-coaching vacancy. Kansas City’s Mike Kafka has also been mentioned as a serious candidate. But the one name permeating out of players’ mouths all day was none other than Duce Staley.
That’s right. The long-time Eagles assistant coach might finally get his shot assuming the players on the roster have any sway in the decision. Staley ran the team during training camp when Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19 and kept a “little notebook of secrets.” Now that Pederson is out, the guys on the team are rallying strong support for the former running back to get the job.
Former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was the first to propose the idea on social media, a thought quickly seconded by team captains Rodney McLeod and Brandon Graham. Keeping a locker room that loved Pederson happy should be a priority. Especially after TankGate.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was asked specifically about Staley’s candidacy during his media availability on Monday and didn’t rule it out. Remember, the 45-year-old interviewed for the job in 2016.
“I would expect Duce Staley to be a candidate,” Lurie said. “He’s a great representative of the Eagles and knows our values. I would expect him to be part of the search, as well.”
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Interviewing Minority Candidates Should Be Priority
The NFL has put a priority on teams interviewing minority candidates (see: Rooney Rule) for head-coaching jobs, but hires have been too few and far between. The league recently passed an amendment to reward teams with draft picks for developing minority coaches.
Is it enough? Time will tell. But Staley is an in-house candidate for the Eagles so the new rule wouldn’t apply to them. However, it would seek to reward a beloved member of their coaching staff who has paid his dues and climbed the coaching ladder since 2010.
While he has never called plays, Staley has been heavily involved in putting together the game-plan, running practices, managing egos, all the little things head coaches are expected to do. His players love him and the organization knows him as both a player and a coach.
“Duce Staley did a great job of making sure the team stayed together,” running back Corey Clement said during camp. “Duce definitely got my vote for a future head coach.”
“I think he has the capability of being a fine coach in the NFL as long as he gets the opportunity,” said Brian Westbrook, Staley’s former teammate in Philly. “He knows how to be a leader of men.”
Lurie’s First Coaching Hire Was Ray Rhodes
People may forget but Lurie’s first coaching hire was a black man. The billionaire owner had just purchased the Eagles for $185 million and ended a six-week coaching search by hiring San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes in 1995.
Rhodes replaced Rich Kotite in Philly and became the NFL’s second black head coach (Dennis Green) at the time and only the third black head coach (Fritz Pollard) in league history. Lurie, who will be embarking on his fifth head-coaching search, mentioned that history without listing Rhodes by name.
“I’ve never hesitated in this area,” Lurie told reporters on Monday. “Obviously, I’ve hired an African American as a head coach and proud of it, because he was the right man for the job at the time. There’s plenty of possible candidates in this area.”
In addition to Staley, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy remains one of the hottest young candidates on the market. He’s interviewed with the Jaguars, Lions, Falcons, Chargers and Jets to date. The Eagles — adding their long-standing relationship with Andy Reid into the mix — will probably due their due diligence on Bieniemy. Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is another name to keep an eye on.
“I think that we are very open and it’s top of mind to make sure we have some of the best minority candidates in on the search,” Lurie said. “It’s very important I think for us, for the league and it’s top of mind.”
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