Did Duce Staley get screwed? He’s now interviewed twice for the Eagles head coaching job without landing it.
On paper, his resume isn’t much different from Nick Sirianni’s resume. Duce has been with the Birds for 10 years, and while he wasn’t a coordinator like Sirianni, he has 10 additional seasons of actual NFL playing experience to his name. The players love him. Jeffrey Lurie seems to love him. If he’s not qualified, wouldn’t it be nice to know why? Unfortunately, only Lurie and perhaps Howie Roseman can answer that question.
The simple answer, if we’re taking a guess, is that Duce is a position coach. He’s never called plays or worked as an offensive coordinator. He’s never been a primary game planner, and people point out that no other teams have come beating down the Eagles’ door asking to interview Duce for open positions.
But it’s worth asking the question –
Do you need to become an offensive or defensive coordinator before becoming a head coach?
There are plenty of examples of good leaders who can motivate and create a positive ecosystem and hire the right coaches around them. That’s what Duce would have been as head coach. He’d be the figurehead who holds the players’ respect and installs a robust staff. We’d only have to look at the recent example the Giants provided us, with the hiring of special teams coach Joe Judge. Judge hasn’t called a play in his life, but he seems like a motivator and a “football guy” and brought in Jason Garrett and Patrick Graham to run his offense and the defense. In that sense, Judge is the macro guy and his coordinators and position coaches are the micro guys.
Similarly, John Harbaugh was a special teams coach under Andy Reid who then became DB coach for a single season before getting the Ravens head coaching job. He turned out to be pretty damn good.
At the risk of missing the point, I think we’re all smart enough to understand that the Nick Sirianni hire seems to be about one thing, and only thing only – fixing Carson Wentz. He worked under Frank Reich, who had a lot of success during Carson’s first two NFL years. Surely, the Eagles think that Sirianni is the guy to get Wentz unstuck and get this team rolling again. Perhaps they didn’t think Duce was built for that role.
And that’s alright. If it came down to a player-specific scenario like this, then you wouldn’t necessarily say Duce is unqualified to be a head coach, but that they were instead looking for a specific person for a specific role.
The question now, as we advance the story, is what happens with Duce. Do you promote him again? To what? Super duper assistant coach? Executive Vice President of Running Backs? Assistant to the Regional Manager? They already gave him one fake/ceremonial promotion, so I’m not sure where you go from here, or if he even wants to stick around. But the players really seem to like him and he got positive reviews from Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith, so that shouldn’t be downplayed. He seems like the kind of guy you look to keep in your organization, no matter what. Maybe they can give him a raise or an extra week of vacation. Maybe increase the 401k match from 4% to 6%. There’s always something you can do to sweeten the pot.
And last, but certainly not least, is the issue of race, which is a topic that’s almost impossible to write about with credibility. The Eagles haven’t had a black head coach since Ray Rhodes, and while you’d love to see it happen again, the only person who can speak on that with any authority is Jeffrey Lurie, since he’s the one single person in charge of making the hire. Knowing that he’s one of the NFL’s more progressive owners, we can assume that the process is fair and open, but he’s the only one who truly knows.