This week, we saw Detroit Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley steal the show on “Hard Knocks” spending the majority of the episode clowning defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn during practice. It was a highly-entertaining series of scenes, but it also showed how Staley’s coaching style really connects with his players.
But one person has known Staley’s leadership was coming decades ago.
Brian Westbrook came into the league in 2002 as a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. He was drafted onto where Staley was already entrenched as the team’s starting running back for the previous four seasons.
For many players, Westbrook would have been perceived as a threat to the 27-year-old Staley. But on an episode of the AP Pro Football podcast, Westbrook recalled a very different reaction from Staley.
“In my mind, I was gonna take his spot,” Westbrook said. “But there was nothing that I could ask Duce that he wouldn’t answer. Any question that I had, anything that I was doing wrong, he was always there to correct me, even though I was a guy competing for his same position. And really in the NFL, that’s very, very rare. Usually, men are like, ‘Listen, I’m not teaching you anything, because your job is to take my job, and I don’t want that to happen.’
“But Duce was an open book. He showed me the right way. He showed me how to be a professional, showed me how to study, showed me how to watch film, showed me how to look at plays differently, showed me how to read the safeties, the defense.”
Looking back, Westbrook noted that all of those qualities are the ones you want in an NFL head coach: communication, Xs and Os knowledge, being able to develop and refine the game of young players.
“He has all of those qualities and he showed them 20 years ago when he was teaching me as a rookie,” Westbrook said.
Former Eagles RB @36westbrook says Lions assistant coach Duce Staley, his former teammate in Philadelphia, has all the qualities to be a successful head coach. Listen to the full AP Pro Football Podcast with @RobMaaddi. Download/subscribe: https://t.co/O7aBhU1ePc pic.twitter.com/tVVNyjQBOF— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) August 7, 2022
While Staley’s playing career would last just five more years after Westbrook’s arrival, Westbrook went on to produce two Pro Bowl seasons, an All Pro season and a place in the Eagles’ Hall of Fame. But Westbrook believes Staley is still destined for greatness as a coach.
“Do I think he can be a head coach in the NFL? No doubt about it,” Westbrook said. “Do I think he has the qualities and the ability to become a very successful head coach in the NFL? There’s no doubt about it. Can he lead men? Absolutely. So when we’re talking about knowing the Xs and Os, there’s no one in the league that’s going to know the X’s and O’s of football than Duce Staley. But there’s also no one that has the ability to lead men in the same way that Duce—a guy that has played the game—has that type of ability. So he will get his opportunity, and I know when gets that opportunity, he will make the most of it.”