Don't be fooled by his title - Duce Staley will have an even larger role on the Detroit Lions coaching staff, and his new boss believes it could be a stepping stone to the former running back becoming a head coach in the NFL.
After a decade on the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff, Staley left the team he once played for to become the assistant head coach and running backs coach in Detroit under Dan Campbell. While that's the same title he had during his final three seasons on Doug Pederson's staff in Philadelphia, he appears to have secured more sway in Detroit.
“I told Duce when I was on the phone with him, when I thought that he was about to get out of Philly or that he was thinking about it, I told him, ‘Look, you’re not going to be a token assistant head coach,'" Campbell said Tuesday.
Campbell said he plans to use Staley for "media obligations," for "player evaluations" on both offense and defense, and that he will "keep him abreast of the [salary] cap and what we’re trying to do with free agency." Campbell also said he wants Staley's advice on the team's day-to-day schedule.
"I’m going to use this guy. He's going to be primed and ready to be a head coach when it’s all said and done," Campbell said. "All his bases are going to be covered. He’s going to be able to check off every box and say, ‘Alright, I've been there, I've done that. I know I’ve been trained for this. Just like Sean (Payton) did for me (in New Orleans).
"He’s going to be a true assistant head coach. And if something goes down and he needs to step into my seat, he’s ready to roll. That’s how I view it. I’ve got a lot of respect for Duce and I think he’s a hell of a man. I think he’s a hell of a coach, I really do. I believe he’s going to be a head coach in this league sooner than later. Now, hopefully later than sooner, but I know it’s going to happen.”
Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, Rodney McLeod, Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Graham were among the former or current Eagles who publicly endorsed Staley to succeed Pederson as the next Eagles coach. Additionally, Howard Eskin of SportsRadio 94 WIP reported that some players had texted owner Jeffrey Lurie to voice support for Staley, who did interview for the position.
Ultimately, though, the Eagles elected to hire former Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nike Sirianni as their next head coach. Staley asked to be granted permission to pursue opportunities elsewhere, which he was ultimately allowed to do. Prior to introducing Sirianni, Lurie took time to thank Staley for his contributions to the organization.
"...In particular, just because he's kind of like a son to me, I just want to talk about Duce because Duce is someone very special to me...he's been a a terrific player, coach and leader for us," Lurie said. "He'll always be a Philadelphia Eagle. He and I talked well into the night the other night, and I love the man. I just believe, and I think he believes, that it's best for his goal of being a head coach in the league to work for another organization for a while and set himself up, the way many of the candidates have. It will help him, and I just want the the best for him. I think he'll be an excellent leader for wherever he is in the future, and I just want to share that love for Duce because he's very special."
The Lions have already traded away quarterback Matthew Stafford, and while they did acquire Jared Goff as part of the return package, they are a team in complete rebuild mode, with both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. set to become free agents this offseason. Staley will get to work with Philadelphia product D'Andre Swift, but to get to the point where he becomes a head coaching candidate, it make take the 46-year-old riding out a few lean years first.