The Philadelphia Eagles Just Fractured Their Locker Room Even More By Exiling a Longtime Friend
The Philadelphia Eagles had a roller coaster of a season in 2020. Over the last five months, the franchise stirred up a quarterback controversy, openly tanked for the entire football world to see, finished in last place in one of the worst divisions in NFL history, and fired head coach Doug Pederson just three years after he won a Super Bowl.
The Eagles have since added a new head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator, but they lost one of the locker room’s most beloved figures in the process.
Duce Staley spent 17 years with the Eagles
Before Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Miles Sanders donned midnight green in the backfield for the Eagles, there was Duce Staley. Staley joined the Eagles in 1997 via the NFL draft and spent seven seasons in Philadelphia.
Once Westbrook came along in 2002, Staley took a back seat and eventually moved on to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004. The running back later retired after the 2006 season, finishing his NFL career with 5,785 rushing yards and 34 total touchdowns.
Staley then shifted his focus to coaching, and there was no hesitation regarding where he wanted to start off. The former Eagle rejoined the team in 2010 as a coaching intern. He made the jump to special teams quality control coach in 2011 and spent two years in that role before moving up to become the team’s running backs coach in 2013.
Staley spent the last seven years as the Eagles RB coach, but he was never given the chance to climb the ladder further.
Duce Staley was beloved in the Eagles’ locker room
When the Eagles’ head coaching job became up for grabs this offseason, current and former players were quick to lobby for Duce Staley. Freddie Mitchell, Brandon Graham, Rodney McLeod, and Malcolm Jenkins were just a few of the many players who took to social media to endorse Staley for Philadelphia’s next head coach. More players even contacted team owner Jeffrey Lurie directly to persuade him to promote Staley.
Staley had been the longest-tenured assistant coach on the team at the time, and the entire locker room loved him as a coach and a friend. Eagles’ players also lobbied for Staley during the 2016 coaching search, but he was passed on for Doug Pederson.
After passing on Staley in 2016, the Eagles refused to promote the longtime assistant. Philadelphia eventually gave Staley an assistant head coach label in 2018, but the franchise clearly had no intention of promoting him to offensive coordinator or head coach any time soon.
The Eagles just fractured their locker room by letting Duce Staley go
Duce Staley again interviewed for the Eagles’ head coaching position this offseason, but he was again passed on for an outside candidate. Philadelphia also hired an outside offensive coordinator instead of promoting Staley to the same job.
At that point, Staley finally reached his breaking point. After nearly a decade serving on the Eagles’ coaching staff, Staley realized team owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman weren’t going to reward him with the promotion he deserved.
So, Staley asked the Eagles to let him out of his current contract, John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported Sunday. In less than 24 hours, Staley found a new gig with the Detroit Lions. He will be joining Dan Campbell’s staff as the Lions’ newest running backs coach and assistant head coach.
Staley will be an offensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL very soon, but it surely won’t be with the Eagles. His surprising departure will even worsen the divide between the locker room and the front office in Philadelphia.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference