Duce Staley

Duce Staley, the Philadelphia Eagles assistant coach and running backs coach, is supposedly in the mix of people being considered to fill the team’s offensive coordinator vacancy. — AP PHOTO FILE

Duce Staley is a patient man. Hopefully, that patience will give him an opportunity to become the next offensive coordinator of the defending NFC East champion, the Philadelphia Eagles.

For those keeping score, it’s been three weeks since the Eagles fired Mike Groh as offensive coordinator. Since then, many names have been rumored to be in the mix for filling the job. Only two — Staley and former NFL head coach Jim Caldwell — are African American.

Staley, an Eagles’ assistant coach as well as the running backs coach, should be a lock for the job. But that apparently is not the case. And unfortunately, Staley has been in this situation before with the Birds.

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Two years ago, he was passed over for positions as pass-game coordinator and run-game coordinator. Instead, Staley was promoted to assistant coach and remained the running backs coach. As running backs coach, Staley has been credited with developing young players while motivating veterans. The result has been an efficient rushing attack that has enjoyed many memorable moments.

An outstanding running back for the Eagles during his playing career, Staley should be considered for the offensive coordinator opening. He began his coaching career as an intern for the Eagles and head coach Andy Reid in 2010 before he was promoted to special teams quality control coach.

Many may remember when Chip Kelly was axed as head coach in 2015, the Eagles interviewed Staley, who was the running backs coach, for the vacancy. Then newly hired Eagles head coach Doug Pederson retained Staley.

The NFL is roughly 70% Black but features only three Black head coaches — Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins and Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers. Washington Redskins newly named head coach Ron Rivera is Hispanic.

It’s been said that the surest route to a head coaching job in the NFL is the ability to develop quarterbacks, a task that falls to offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches. Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs and Byron Leftwich of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the NFL’s only Black offensive coordinators.

It should be noted that only five Black head coaches in NFL history — Caldwell, Lynn, Art Shell, Hue Jackson and the late Dennis Green — came from an offensive background.

Blacks and coaching jobs in the NFL have become a shell game. Former NFL head coach Marvin Lewis concedes there’s a problem and he doesn’t know what more can be done to increase the number of minority head coaches aside from increasing the opportunities for younger coaches in coordinator positions.

“You keep beating your head up against the wall, but I would say — and again, this is somebody’s business, this is somebody’s franchise, and nobody’s going to tell them who to hire,” Lewis said during an interview on ESPN Radio. “But if we can just somehow open the process a bit more and provide more opportunity [then more coaches could get hired].”

Lewis, who coached the Cincinnati Bengals for 16 years and was the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2009, interviewed for the Dallas Cowboys’ head coaching vacancy. Dallas hired Mike McCarthy but in interviewing Lewis, satisfied the league’s Rooney Rule that calls for teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation openings.

Staley is tough. He knows he’s in a tough battle. He’s carried himself pridefully through the Eagles’ hiring process with his head high and his mouth shut.

That, and his patience, has to count for something.

dbell@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5746

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