Detroit Lions coaches as players: Assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley

Credit: Detroit Free Press-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Detroit Free Press-USA TODAY Sports /

Continuing our series looking at the playing careers of Detroit Lions coaches, next up is running backs coach Duce Staley.

Many would say to his credit, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell filled his coaching staff with former NFL players upon being hired in 2021. And for NFL fans of a certain age, some of those assistant coaches are names easily recalled from when they played.

Duce Staley came to Detroit as associate head coach and running backs coach after 10 seasons on the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff under three head coaches. At the Senior Bowl in February, he was acting head coach as the Lions’ staff led the American team.

But Staley played 10 seasons as an NFL running back, before eventually getting into coaching in 2010 as an intern under Andy Reid in Philadelphia.

Detroit Lions coaches when they were players: Duce Staley

Staley was drafted by the Eagles in the third round (71st overall) in the 1997 draft out of South Carolina. He was a little-used rookie (seven carries for 29 yards), seeing action mostly as a kickoff returner (1,139 yards on 47 returns), but then…

Staley topped 1,000 yards on the ground in 1998 (1,065) while also catching 57 passes with six total touchdowns. In 1999, he was seventh in the league rushing with 1,273 yards while remaining a prominent passing game weapon for the Eagles (41 receptions on 66 targets).

A foot injury cost Staley most of the 2000 season (five games played), and a shoulder issue cost him a few games in 2001–though he set a career-high with 63 receptions that year. He posted another 1,000-yard campaign in 2002 (269 carries for 1,029 yards), with 51 catches.

After a season in an Eagles’ backfield timeshare in 2003, Staley signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004. That first season in Pittsburgh, he had 830 rushing yards on 192 carries.

Staley got a Super Bowl ring as a member of the 2005 Steelers, not that he contributed much to that team (38 carries for 148 yards in five games). He played just one game for the Steelers in 2006, before eventually being cut.

For his NFL career (114 games), Staley had 1,430 carries for 5,785 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns, along with 287 receptions for 2,587 yards and 10 touchdowns. He never made a Pro Bowl.

Staley has lingered to some degree as a potential head coaching candidate, probably for too long. He got a taste of being a head coach at the Senior Bowl, with solid reviews of his work, so the opportunity that should come indeed may come–even if he’s not the first current Lions’ assistant plucked by another team for a head coaching job.

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