Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, like the rest of Doug Pederson’s staff, doesn’t know if he’s staying or leaving.
Unlike some Eagles assistants, though, Stoutland has a path to a good job if he wants it — he probably can go back to his former position as O-line coach at Alabama under Nick Saban, a move Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman indicated might be imminent Thursday.
Stoutland is the Eagles’ most renowned position coach, considered among the best in the sport at developing guards, tackles, and centers. He has been here since 2013, when then-head-coach Chip Kelly hired him away from Saban.
Stoutland, who also carries the title of run-game coordinator, built a dominant offensive line that was a key to winning Super Bowl LII. This past season, he made the best of a chaotic situation, in which injuries required the fielding of an NFL-record 14 different starting offensive line combinations. Stoutland discovered and has nurtured left tackle Jordan Mailata, a former Australian rugby player who has made extraordinary progress in a sport he never played before coming to the Eagles as a seventh-round draft choice in 2018.
The Alabama job opened when O-line coach Kyle Flood followed former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to Texas, where Sarkisian is the new head coach. Though Stoutland has close ties to Saban, Stoutland remains under contract with the Eagles. Management would like to keep him, but head coaches pick their staffs, and until the Eagles have one of those again, there is no way of knowing how this will work out.
A source with knowledge of Stoutland’s thinking said Thursday that he isn’t intent on leaving, on uprooting his family again after eight years in the Philly suburbs, and has made no decision about any other job. Obviously, he would like to know soon whether a move will be necessary.
In October, Mailata recounted first meeting Stoutland, at a tryout at the IMG Academy in Florida.
“I couldn’t believe this guy was a coach. Just the way he coaches, it’s real intimidating for others. At the time I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is really aggressive, and like, why’s he shouting at me, man? Like, dude, come on, man, I just got into America, stop shouting at me.’ ” Mailata said.
“But my relationship with Stout, that’s my guy. I’m able to just speak my mind up on plays, I’m able to tell him how I really feel, and he listens. He coaches me on how to do it differently, how to give a different presentation on technique, so they can’t read you like a textbook.”
The Eagles seem to be casting a wide net in their head-coaching search, with a new candidate making the trek down to team owner Jeffrey Lurie’s Palm Beach, Fla., residence every day since Pederson was dismissed Monday. The team’s brain trust is ensconced in Florida for the interviews. Is everyone staying with Jeff and Tina? Hard to say, but when Lurie bought the place for a reported $28.5 million in 2013, it was described as a six-bedroom mansion.
The last question Lurie answered Monday in his 41-minute-plus video conference with reporters was about his time frame for making a coaching decision.
“I just want to say, there will be no rush here,” Lurie said. “This notion of an NFL team making a very important decision for itself and its fan base, and rushing to a decision, is unlike any in business, and I just don’t think that’s warranted.
“If we find a head coach soon, or it’s early February, it’s totally great. If we’re the last team picking a head coach, that’s great, too, because then you have all the opportunity in the world. There’s no rush. There’s no pressure.
“There’s nothing that should drive you [away] from a decision based on just rational thought and careful analysis, and getting to know the person as best you can.”
Do you really want to be the last team to hire a coach? Seems like the crop of good candidates is going to be pretty thin by then.
Also, there is the matter of the 21 Pederson assistants awaiting word on their fate. We’re not including defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, whose departure has been announced, or either senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello or senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg, whose one-year deals have expired.
If you have a contract for 2021, and the new coach doesn’t want you, you will be paid not to coach, assuming you don’t catch on somewhere else right away. But next year you might be trying to get back into the hiring pool as someone nobody is talking about, with no recent accomplishments. You don’t want to be one of those guys standing around the main gate at Senior Bowl practice in January waiting to catch the eye of an Andy Reid or a Sean Payton so you can stick out your hand and make a pitch.
This is the time of year when teams are hiring, and if you aren’t going to be with the Eagles for the 2021 season, you would like to know that.
When Pederson arrived five years ago, he most notably kept Stoutland, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, running backs coach Duce Staley, tight ends coach Justin Peelle, and secondary coach Cory Undlin. Kelly reportedly wanted to take Stoutland with him to San Francisco, but the Eagles either blocked the move or Stoutland turned down the offer. The week of Super Bowl LII, Stoutland was asked about that interlude and said: “If I had the opportunity to stay, I wanted to stay.”
Pederson kept on more assistants than are usually retained, but Pederson hadn’t been a head coach before and had coached for Reid, with the Eagles and the Chiefs. Reid typically tells assistants who get head-coaching jobs to hire their own staffs, they aren’t welcome to raid his. Pederson didn’t have a long list of people he knew well and wanted to hire; he was happy to take guidance from general manager Howie Roseman.
There is a famous story about when Reid was being hired by the Eagles in 1999. Juan Castillo, the offensive line coach under Ray Rhodes, jumped in his car and drove to Green Bay to try to talk Reid into keeping him, and Reid did.
If Stoutland wants to stick around, he probably won’t need to do that.