The Man Behind a Decade of the Eagles’ Dominant Offensive Line Play
“Okay, so I’m working on the Stout,” I tell Cam Jurgens, a Philadelphia Eagles rookie center. “Basically I’m trying to figure out how the hell this guy does everything he does.”
Jurgens chuckles. “Good luck.”
Jeff Stoutland — Stout, as everyone calls him — is the offensive line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Been for a long time. Originally hired by Chip Kelly in 2013, Stoutland did what is almost unthinkable among NFL coaches: He survived not one but two head coaching changes and still kept his job. First when Doug Pederson replaced Kelly in 2016 and again in 2021 when Nick Sirianni replaced Pederson. Stoutland has been the Eagles offensive line coach for longer than all but five current NFL head coaches have served in office.; he had a longer tenure than any offensive and defensive coordinator except one (Pete Carmichael of the Saints).
Stoutland’s longevity is both a testament to the quality of his coaching and a contributing factor to it. For a decade, the Eagles’ offensive line has heard one voice—one harsh, barking voice—setting the standard and demanding it be met. With this succession came an unimaginable development. Jason Kelsey, drafted in 2011, is the only offensive lineman Stoutland inherited from another regime, no matter. Kelsey has been an All-Pro on the first team in five of Stout’s last six seasons. Lane Johnson was the first pick of the Kelly era in Philadelphia, selected fourth overall in 2013 behind other offensive tackles by Eric Fischer and Luke Jokel. Kelly told me this week that Johnson was first on the Stoutland board of directors for the entire process – he’s now a four-time pro bowler and a two-time All-Pro.
How about security guard Brandon Brooks? No Pro Bowl four seasons before Stout, three in four healthy seasons with Stout. Evan Mathis, a 32-year veteran in 2013, made his first All-Pro list in his first season at Stoutland in Philadelphia. Stoutland is one of five offensive line coaches since the merger. coach a Pro Bowl offensive lineman for nine consecutive seasons. And that doesn’t even apply to Jordan Mailata, the rugby star who has never played football in his life and now proudly announces his alma mater Jeff Stoutland University. Sunday Night Football.
Jordan Mailata: Jeff Stoutland University pic.twitter.com/8hMRxyYuee
— Crossing the Broad (@CrossingBroad) November 28, 2022
But the question is not what is happening. The proof of development is right in front of us in Mylat, Kelsey and Johnson in an NFL-record 39 touchdowns this season, in the Eagles’ second Super Bowl appearance in six years, led by a dominant offensive line. The question is how. How does Stoutland use all these different players and make the most of them? What secret tricks does he have as a teacher, leader, motivator?
I had the opportunity to speak with Stout at a media night on Monday when Super Bowl week opened. He has more people than any Eagles coordinator or any other positional coach. Stout snarls answer after answer as he lies on his stool, detailed and thoughtful each time. I ask him directly why he’s so good at it, and after some awkward thinking (I tell him, “That’s a tough question,” and he barks back, “Not exactly”), he finally says, “Me.” m ruthless. I am ruthless. I don’t stop and won’t stop until I feel the player has understood. Until he realizes it.”
Stoutland’s coaching method uses what is called cold calling. Often used in law schools, cold calling is based on the Socratic method of asking and answering impromptu questions to improve critical thinking. In Stoutland’s offensive line offices, it’s all about installation and recall. Stoutland will analyze all the information needed for the game plan: what fronts the Eagles opponent will use this week, how they will test different passes against different fronts, how they will adjust each blocking pattern in each pass for different fronts. And once he’s done and moving on to the next case for a while, he’ll call anyone in the room—starter or back-up—and ask them about their responsibility in a particular play. Players have a fraction of a second to respond.
I ask Johnson what happens if you make the wrong cold call. “You look like a fool,” Johnson says. “And if you keep answering questions wrong, you won’t be around.”
Cold calling is a method and it works, but the real magic is repetition. Eagles tackle Jack Driscoll told me that his favorite saying for stouts – there are quite a few of them, including the famous “Hungry dogs run faster” line from the 2017 Super Bowl winning season is “10,000 strokes.” This is a corruption of a Bruce Lee quote: “I’m not afraid of the one who once worked 10,000 punches, but the one who worked one punch 10,000 times.”
This thinking applies both to how the Eagles’ offensive line is trained (repeat until mastery) and how they play their running game. They take one thing they are good at, one hit, and repeat it 10,000 times. From week to week one beat changes. Take the regular season game against the Giants, in which the Eagles lost three in a row. Blow, blow, blow.
Eagles performing the same counter play three times in a row. All three are from the same formation and with the same pre-click movement. https://t.co/tI50NaZ4iS pic.twitter.com/t7Xg8gdCiz
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) December 13, 2022
Or take the win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, which was dominated by the Eagles with zonal transitions to the weak side of the formation (away from the tight end) again and again and again.
This latest run is unlike any other, and that’s the point. Eagles zonal runs have built-in adjustments based on defensive gear alignment. When the guard is on the guard’s outer shoulder, Isaac Seumalo and Kelsey guide him twice to the next zip, leaving a large inside gap for the running back, but when the guard is level inside the guard, the Eagles make the call to “erase” and allow Seumalo to secure the tackle inside. so that Kelsey can take the block to the second level.
That little adjustment right now to get perfect angles for a long run? This is what you get cold calls about during setup on a Tuesday afternoon, just to make sure you know what to do when that tackle aligns differently. Blow, blow, blow.
Seumalo tells me that the Eagles are working so hard to set up their running game during the week that the ship basically sets sail on Saturday. “We will carefully examine every look, every detail, every trend and how the guys line up, and we really try to exhaust this process so that game day comes. [Stout’s] actually very hands off. … Obviously, adjustments and corrections can be made, but for the most part, he just wants us to come out and play fast and have a good time while we do it.”
“Good time” is another stautism. In his offensive line, he says that “performance fuels emotion.” If this sounds familiar, it’s because Jalen Hurts mentioned it earlier this season.
“Performance fuels emotion” – @JalenHurts #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/SCaXyNAWSU
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) November 28, 2022
Mailata told me it was his favorite Stoutland line because Mailata lived it. These three words describe Mailata’s entire career. For a while he could not fulfill. He knew how it should look and how it should work, but he was inexperienced and did not have the necessary equipment, tools. It wasn’t until Stoutland gave him those tools—when everything came together—that the emotions really kicked in. It was the feeling of a job well done, the feeling of reaping the fruits of a seed long planted, nurtured and cared for. Stoutland built Mailata from the ground up with that very principle in mind – he would love to learn how to do it and do it right. It’s no surprise that when Mailata talks about Stoutland, he’s not just joking about Jeff Stoutland University. “He is like my dad“, he said in June 2021.
But if performance fuels emotion, then there is no one more obsessed with performance — and therefore no one more emotional — than Stoutland himself. Stoutland loves to do things right, which is why his train keeps chugging along day after day. “Sometimes you are in awe of how much energy it brings every single day,” Kelsey said earlier this year, marveling at how often offensive linemen perform well when thrown into the fire.. “He just never stops training. Guys will joke about it, other trainers will joke about it because it’s amazing how much stamina he has to train people. I think that’s why you see backups come into play and play well. He just can’t help himself. He was created to be an attacking line coach.”
“I am ruthless.” Stoutland answered my not very difficult question. “I am ruthless.”
I spoke to most of the Eagles offensive line, Stoutland themselves, and Stoutland assistant offensive line coach Roy Istvan, who played…