Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and running backs coach Duce Staley have had some memorable moments through three episodes of the HBO/NFL Films documentary series “Hard Knocks.”
Start with Episode 1 — as Staley stood in the front of the team room, he turned to Glenn and said, “I love you. I want to (expletive) you up between those white lines, but I love you.”
In Episode 2, it was Glenn’s turn to shine as he gave an impassioned speech to the team discussing how they need to “draw a line in the sand and say, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” when it comes to losing.
Throughout the three episodes so far, the duo have barked back and forth constantly on the practice field — OTAs, minicamp, training camp — everywhere, with Glenn always daring Staley’s unit to try and run it against his defense, and Staley jabbing back every time his backs break a big play.
With two such boisterous voices, one might think the coaches are playing it up for the cameras. Far from it.
“It’s just me, it’s how I coach,” Staley said. “I’m passionate about this game, I love this game so if those cameras were not there, that’s (still) how it would be. So it’s good, I guess the fans and everybody and you guys get a chance to see us in that light.”
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As Staley walked off the practice field Tuesday night, I had to walk up to him and tell him a scene from Episode 3 — in which he unleashes a profanity-laced rant as he attempts to scream at his players for coming up short in a practice against Indianapolis, but is unable to because he has lost his voice — was genuinely hilarious.
He looked confused at first, then knew the moment I was referencing.
“No, they didn’t put that on there, did they?” he asked. “Man, I can’t believe you can even hear me, really.”
Then there’s the question of what this spotlight might do for his coaching future. The former Philadelphia Eagles star-turned-assistant has come across as demanding, yet understanding. Tough, yet approachable. No-nonsense, yet humorous.
Staley’s ascension in the NFL coaching hierarchy is far from determined, but any exposure through the first three weeks has only helped, right? What does he think?
“I don’t really care about it, honestly, truthfully,” he said. “I’m here for (the players), to make sure they get better. I live vicariously through them, I still love this game, I still got that small burning lantern inside of me that wishes I could play, but I’ve got to play through them.
“What you see is what you get.”
Then there’s Glenn, who has already interviewed for head coaching positions and is seen as being on the shortlist to get a top job following the 2022 season.
He isn’t concerned about the future, either, or what the national audience may think of the spotlight on him.
“I’m not here to make anybody a (TV) star, I’m here to coach football,” he said. “I’m here to be the best defensive coordinator the Lions have ever had, and I’ve been saying that for the longest. Whatever it takes to do that, that’s what I’m going to do.
“I couldn’t care less about anything else to be honest with you, I’m just here to coach football.”
It’s not a coincidence these big personalities are on a staff led by Dan Campbell; the former Lions tight end who began his tenure in 2021 saying his team would “bite off kneecaps,” has already, though three episodes, referenced people with “one ass cheek and three toes”; called Devin Funchess, “(expletive) Funchess Bunches of Oats”; and joked about T.J. Hockenson wearing tight shorts.
Campbell wanted a team of coaches who are authentic and genuine; it’s just an added bonus that many, such as Glenn and Staley, also had decade-long careers in the NFL.
Offensive line coach Hank Fraley, without the NFL-player pedigree, has had similar moments. He woke his son up for training camp at 5 a.m. and threw the football around with him, then scolded rookies who are trying to make the team for not going all the way through a drill.
Linebackers coach Kelvin Shephard, an eight-year NFL pro, also has shined with emotion.
He berated his room for largely getting beat out by a sixth-round rookie (Malcolm Rodriguez), but also zoomed around the field after his team came up with a fouth-down fumble in a red-zone drill against the Colts.
The message in Allen Park has been the same: Nobody is doing anything for the cameras.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t even think about ‘Hard Knocks’ being around, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not,” Glenn said with a smile. “Maybe I should more. But man, the players know me as ‘AG’ and that’s what you’re going to get.
“I’m not going to be fake for anybody. I don’t care who’s here, I don’t care what coaches are around, because when the players talk about me, this is who I am, and that’s not changing.”
Contact Tony Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.