This week, news hit suddenly that Detroit Lions assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley was leaving the team to join the Carolina Panthers. At first, it wasn’t clear why Staley would leave Detroit when he was not getting a head coach opportunity elsewhere. All that was clear was that Staley was joining a familiar face in Panthers new head coach Frank Reich, with whom he coached alongside with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Shortly, though, it became clear this was more than just Staley leaving for a new opportunity. Justin Rogers of the Detroit News reported that a big factor in Staley leaving was to be closer to his mother, who was dealing with a health concern.
“The Lions granted Staley permission to leave so he could be closer to his mother, who has been battling some recent health issues, in South Carolina,” Rogers wrote.
Shortly after the news dropped, Lions left tackle Taylor Decker joined the Honolulu Blues podcast, and gave more details on how things played out.
“I will say Duce called me this morning,” Decker said on Wednesday. “We probably talked for 10, 15 minutes about it. I believe he called every single person, at least on the offense. I believe he called all of them. Before he called me, he said he had spoken to all of the running backs. He was trying to reach every single guy, individually.”
Decker, more or less, confirmed everything Rogers has said, though he did not provide any details out of respect for Staley and his family.
“It was for personal reasons, mostly. It’s not because he doesn’t want to be part of our organization. It’s not because he doesn’t love us, but he needs to do what’s best for his family. I respect him as a man for that, because he’s a guy’s guy and a man’s man, and he’s got to handle his business. You can’t say a bad thing about that.”
Staley was only with the Lions for two seasons, but his impact was obvious to anyone paying attention. Running back Jamaal Williams put up a career year in 2022, crossing over 1,000 yards for the first time, and D’Andre Swift—while still hampered by injury—played more consistently than we’ve seen in his young career.
Decker spoke extensively about how important Staley was to this team.
“Especially given the fact that he joined the Lions organization when we were coming off some really tough times. I remember one of his first meetings with the team. He kinda took pride in wanting to come here and build something special. Man, he was just a leader of men. He’s a great guy. He can command a room really well. From his playing pedigree, you command respect. You did it.
So, yeah, we’re going to miss him, man. He was a great motivator. I think he was great for our young backs. He would tell Swift all the time that he believed he could be the best back in the league, and for your coach to instill that belief in you, it’s super powerful. Him and Jamaal had really, really special relationship. You’d see those guys laughing, crying, everything together. Jamaal had the best year of his career, set all sorts of great record, and stuff like that. He was just an awesome guy. Like I said, I know it was for a lot of personal reasons, and I respect him for that. I told him, I was like, ‘You’re being a man, and you’re doing what you have to do.’”
Lastly, Decker confirmed that coach Dan Campbell didn’t hesitate to let Staley leave to be closer with his family.
“It’s a hard decision, but I know for a fact Dan (Campbell) was like, ‘Absolutely. You do what you gotta do.’ And I know all of us will miss him and wish him the best.”
The entire interview with Decker is worth your time, as he explains his evolving relationship with the media, why this team feels different than before, and who would win a drinking competition between the offensive line.