Brandon Brooks retired Wednesday after a successful decade in the NFL and the three-time Pro Bowl right guard got emotional when discussing what Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland meant to his career.
“I feel like it is rare to have a coach who is as impactful on the field as off [of it],” Brooks said. “He took me from being a good player to being the best at my position.”
A good player in Houston who turned great under Stoutland in Philadelphia, Brooks noted that even after he reached the vaunted Stoutland standard that defines players like Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, and Brooks, the O-line coach kept pushing Brooks to live up to his own prodigious gifts.
“You pushed me continuously to strive for more because hungry dogs run faster, and always will,” Brooks directed to his position coach. “… Through all my struggles and low moments, I could always count on a phone call from you, the topic never being about football, but about life and how much you could help.
“… You are family, and always will be.”
Later in the day, Stoutland reacted to one of his best pupils moving onto the next phase of his life.
“Sad to be losing such a dominant player at his position and such a role model for younger players,” Stoutland said of Brooks. “He has overcome so much with such a positive attitude.”
Brooks, like his good friend Lane Johnson this season, has serious anxiety issues at times during his career and took on the mantle of fighting negative perceptions in order to help others deal with similar afflictions.
Stoutland was at the core of the Eagles’ effort to help Brooks get through his problems.
“Whenever a family member is in trouble you do whatever you have to do to help,” said Stoutland. “This was no different. If anything, we became closer as a group. And the respect he earned from his teammates due to his honesty grew.”
In recent seasons, the bigger adversity for Brooks was injuries, in the form of two torn Achilles, a dislocated shoulder, and a pec injury this year that was the last straw when rehab didn’t go as quickly as Brooks had hoped.
“The most revealing thing to me was his attitude the minute he was injured in New Orleans,” Stoutalnd said. “It immediately clicked into positivity, and I don’t know how he did it. But all of our players who saw this … and they have learned from him how to handle injuries and how to conduct themselves.
“So many people learned from him just based on his positive, driven, motivation to get better.
The NOLA injury was Brooks’ first torn Achilles in the playoffs during January of 2019 and Brooks made it make after an eight-month rehab to have his best season and one in which Pro Football Focus graded him as the best offensive lineman in the entire NFL.
For Stoutland, he said he will cherish the right side that Brooks and Johnson provided him and the Eagles’ offense for most of the Doug Pederson era, which included three consecutive postseason berths and a Super Bowl LII championship, but the way Brooks’ handled adversity is the real demarcation line between great and special.
“I could say the dominant double team blocks he and Lane Johnson demonstrated time and time again. Or the dominant jump sets in protection,” Stoutland said when asked what he will remember most when it comes to Brooks before pivoting, “But really, the way he has been able to overcome adversity.
“He has been dealt adversity time and time again. From anxiety to injuries… it can break a person. But it didn’t break him, it made him stronger. It’s a lesson to everyone in that room, that building, the city.”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.