Lions’ Dan Campbell driven to help propel assistant Duce Staley to head-coaching job

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
| The Detroit News

Duce Staley’s career had plateaued in Philadelphia. The former Eagles running back turned position coach has had his eyes on one day running his own team, but it was becoming clear his ascension had stalled. 

After the Eagles made a coaching change this offseason, and passed him over for the job in favor of Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, Staley decided the best way to reinvigorate his credentials was a fresh start in Detroit. 

“I love the man,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Laurie said in January. “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, and it’ll help him and I just want the best for him. I think he’ll be an excellent leader wherever he is in the future and I just want to share that love for Duce. He’s very special.”

Staley reportedly had multiple offers, but chose Detroit, where new coach Dan Campbell not only would allow Staley to coach running backs, but to also serve as his assistant head coach. 

“Getting the call from Coach Campbell, I mean, he was super excited on the phone,” Staley said last month. “I felt the energy through the phone. And then (defensive coordinator) Aaron Glenn, he was like, ‘Hey man, we’re building something special here. We want you to be a part of it.’ When I got those two phone calls, man, I’m telling you, after being in Philadelphia for so long, each year I would get phone calls or opportunities to see what was out there, interest from other clubs, of course, but when those two guys reached out to me, it felt good, it felt right, and I was happy to be a part of this and I couldn’t wait to get here.”

The assistant head coach title means different things for different franchises. In some instances, it’s simply honorary, in others it’s a device used to protect a talented assistant from getting poached. But that won’t be the case in Detroit. Campbell is planning to put a lot on Staley’s plate, in an effort to prepare the rising assistant for the opportunity expected to come in the near future. 

“I told Duce when I was on the phone with him, when I thought that he was about to get out of Philly, or he was thinking about it – I told him, ‘Look, you’re not going to be a token assistant head coach,'” Campbell said. “I’m going to use him, and I plan on using him for some media obligations. We had him in during our player evaluations on the whole offense and defense, though he wasn’t able to be in there very long because he had to go back with (offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn) and work offensively. But I’m going to keep him abreast of the cap and things of that nature, what we’re trying to do with free agency, guys that I know, even if they’re on defense, I want him to have a hand in.”

For Campbell, Staley’s circumstances are similar to his own, having served as an assistant head coach, but never a coordinator or play-caller. Now Campbell wants to pay forward the opportunities give to him by Sean Payton in New Orleans. 

“He’s going to be primed and ready to be a head coach when it’s all said and done,” Campbell said. “Like, all his bases are going to be covered. He’s going to be able to check off every box and say, ‘All right, I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I know I’ve been trained for this,’ just like Sean did for me. He’s going to be a true assistant head coach and if it something goes down and he needs to step into my seat, he’s ready to roll.

“That’s how I view it,” Campbell said. “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, and 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.”

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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