Whenever Duce Staley would pinball his way off tacklers on his way to one big run or another, the Veterans Stadium crowd would roar in delight, “DUUUCE!”
Perhaps the loudest chorus of “DUUUCE!” came in the 2002 NFC Championship Game, when he rumbled 20 yards for a touchdown before the game was even one minute old to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the final at the Vet, one the Eagles lost to the Bucs.
Staley, now 45, was a fan favorite and remained so during his 10 years as an assistant coach.
For some reason, “DUUUCE!” never quite resonated in the Eagles front office, as it did for fans or players who played for him, too.
And now, Staley is off to the next chapter of his life, heading to the Detroit Lions to be the assistant head coach and running back coach under their new head coach Dan Campbell, per NFL Media on Monday. They were the same two titles he held with the Eagles.
It makes sense that Staley would move on after twice being passed over in interviews to be the head coach, but it is ironic that he will be leaving on the same day that new head coach Nick Sirianni arrived in town to tour the Eagles’ facility for the very first time.
The departure of Staley will likely have some sort of impact on the locker room, where several players wanted him to the head coach. Some current and former players even sent text messages to owner Jeffrey Lurie endorsing Staley as a head coach.
Staley played seven years with the Eagles, from 1997-2003 as a third-round draft pick out of South Carolina, and finished with 8,372 yards from scrimmage, with 4,807 rushing, which when he left town for three more seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers was the third most in Eagles team history.
That rushing total is now fifth-most in the team record book, behind LeSean McCoy, Wilbert Montgomery, Brian Westbrook, and Steve Van Buren.
Staley ran for 22 touchdowns, which is ninth-best in Eagles history for rushing TDs. He is one of just three Eagles to eclipse 200 yards rushing in the same game with McCoy and Van Buren the other two.
Staley added 2,498 yards receiving with 10 touchdowns during his time with the Eagles.
He was the RB coach in 2014 when McCoy ran for 1,319 yards, which was the third-highest total in the league that year and broke Montgomery’s career rushing total of 6,538 yards that had stood for 30 years.
In the Eagles’ Super Bowl season of 2017, he ran the show for a rushing attack that led the NFL with 132.2 yards per game. Corey Clement, who had a breakout season that year as a rookie, gave Staley a lot of credit for helping him develop into a key element for the Eagles that season.
Last year, he helped mold Miles Sanders into consideration for rookie of the year, an award he fell short of but was named to the Pro Football Writers Association’s all-rookie team after leading his rookie class in yards from scrimmage with 1,327.
For some reason, though, the front office didn't see Staley as head coach material, and maybe he isn't, but maybe a fresh start in Detroit may help his candidacy to someday become one.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of EagleMaven. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.