PHILADELPHIA - The news of Doug Pederson's exit from the Eagles on Monday was sudden so team owner Jeffrey Lurie wasn't about to foreshadow any candidates for his next head coach at an afternoon press conference, save for one, the only likely internal candidate, Pederson's former assistant head coach Duce Staley.
Staley, a running back for the Eagles from 1997-2003, returned to the organization as an assistant coach in 2011 and has been here ever since through three coaching regimes: Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, and Pederson. He started at the bottom as a quality control coach on special teams before becoming a position coach at RB and ultimately developing as the No. 2 man on the staff under Pederson.
It was Staley, 45, who ran the team when Pederson was quarantined in his South Jersey home this summer after testing positive for COVID-19.
“I would expect Duce Staley to be a candidate,” Lurie said. “He’s a great representative of the Eagles, knows our values. I would expect him to be a part of the search as well.”
In other words, Staley is likely to be part of the new staff no matter who is hired although he could also follow Pederson in theory, someone who Staley endorsed heartily last month.
"Awesome head coach," Staley said of Pederson. "Awesome. First of all, he's one of those guys that lets you work. You got an opinion. He asks you your opinion. He wants to know. He wants to know about this, he wants to know about that. He comes to you to knock on the door, he sits in the office. I mean, of course, I played with him, so I know. So, I mean, he's awesome."
The Eagles interviewed Staley for the head coaching position in 2016 before hiring Pederson and he was passed over twice when Pederson was looking for an offensive coordinator, first for Mike Groh and then for the tortured 2020 setup when the duties were split between passing game coordinator Press Taylor and senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello.
Staley, instead, was given the assistant head coach title in 2018 and was put in charge of the team's developmental program.
The NFL was at least concerned that the Eagles used Staley to circumvent the Rooney Rule in 2016, an edict that requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head-coaching positions. Another interview to simply satisfy the requirement this time around could put Lurie in a tough position.
“We are very open and it’s top of mind to make sure we have some of the best minority candidates in on the search,” Lurie said. “It’s very important, I think, for us, for the league and it's top of mind."
Lurie claimed he's never "hesitated in this area," pointing to his hiring of Ray Rhodes in 1995.
"Obviously, I've hired an African American as a head coach and proud of it, because he was the right man for the job at the time," Lurie said. There's plenty of possible candidates in this area."
The problem there is that since Rhodes was fired after the 1998 season the Eagles have only had one other African-American as a head coach or in any of the coordinator positions, Todd Bowles, who was the interim defensive coordinator in 2012 when Juan Castillo, a Latino, was fired in October.
Staley, meanwhile, already has one significant endorsement of his own in former Eagles Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins.
"Every time he stood in front of the team he had the attention and respect of everyone in the room," Jenkins wrote on Twitter. "The embodiment of what it means to be an (Eagle), in a coach. I’m good where I’m at lol BUT, In another lifetime I’d love to play for him!"
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of EagleMaven. Check out anything you may have missed pertaining to the Eagles by going to www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.