It was February of 2018 and the Eagles were fresh off their first Super Bowl win, parade and celebration. So offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was looking forward to a little relaxation and had planned a golf outing with a few of his high school buddies.
One problem. Howie Roseman called and told him about some giant Australian rugby player who was having a workout at IMG Academy and instead of hitting the links, Stoutland boarded a plane for Tampa.
Jordan Mailata starts laughing immediately when you ask him about the first time he met Stoutland. Back then, Mailata was just a fresh-faced 21-year-old who barely knew a thing about American football. He was starting a journey few thought he would finish.
“I’ll tell you what, when I first met Stout at IMG, I could not believe this was going to be a coach,” Mailata said this week about the sometimes gruff and intense Stoutland.
“I couldn’t believe this guy was a coach. Just the way he coaches, it’s real like intimidating for others. And at the time I was like, ‘Wow, this guy’s really like aggressive, and like why’s he shouting at me, man. Like, dude, come on, man, I just got into America, stop shouting at me.’ But my relationship with Stout, that’s my guy.”
The Eagles drafted Mailata in the seventh round in 2018. Fast forward three years and not only is Mailata an NFL football player but he just started his first NFL game and actually held his own.
That’s just one of many reasons this season that the Eagles should feel incredibly lucky to have Stoutland on their staff. Simply put, he’s one of the greatest position coaches in franchise history.
Just think about all the offensive line has overcome already this season.
It lost Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo and Jason Peters. This season the Eagles have already started a former rugby player, a rookie fourth-round pick, a former sixth-round pick and a former undrafted free agent. And they’ve actually played fairly well recently. Although they face their biggest challenge this weekend in Pittsburgh.
This weekend, the Eagles are expected to have the same offensive line lineup for consecutive weeks for the first time all season.
Here’s the thing: Even before this season, we knew how great of a coach Stoutland was. While he has certainly had plenty of talent during his eight seasons with the Eagles, he’s helped get the most out of that talent. Evan Mathis (2 Pro Bowls, 1 All-Pros), Jason Kelce (3 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pros) and Brandon Brooks (3 Pro Bowls) were in the league prior to playing for Stoutland but never made a single All-Pro team or Pro Bowl until he became their coach.
In his eight years as the Eagles’ OL coach, his players have combined for six All-Pros and 15 Pro Bowl appearances.
Stoutland is one of several holdover coaches from the Chip Kelly regime and keeping him has proved to be one of Doug Pederson’s best decisions. Pederson said he heard plenty of good things around the league about Stoutland and that helped sway his decision to keep him. Back in January of 2016, just after Pederson was hired, he had a sit-down meeting with Stout in his office and felt the passion for which Stoutland is known.
“He has a lot of energy, very, very excited,” Pederson said. “For him, I can understand it was a little bit of an unknown time, right? New head coach coming in, you don't know if you're going to be here or somewhere else, but I just assured him that quite frankly, he was going to be my offensive line coach. But it was a great meeting. A lot of energy, and looking back, a great decision on my part.”
Kelce has a theory about why Stoutland is so good at developing younger players. He shared it earlier this week. Kelce thinks that Stoutland’s time as a college coach helped mold his philosophy and work ethic. After all, at the college level there’s no free agency. You better develop your freshmen because they’re going to be playing for you soon.
Before joining Chip’s staff in 2013, Stoutland was at Alabama and before that Miami, Michigan State and Syracuse, all as an offensive line coach. This is his first NFL job and eight years in, he’s still knocking it out of the park.
This year has been his most impressive season simply because of all the Eagles have overcome. Stoutland should be proud that his line has held up this year. He should be proud that Nate Herbig has developed and Jack Driscoll is already solid as a rookie.
And he should definitely be proud that he’s turned Mailata into an NFL football player in just three years. But I asked Stoutland about any personal pride he feels about that last one and I couldn’t help but smile as he started to answer.
Stoutland spoke nearly 300 words about feeling gratification when seeing stunts passed off smoothly, seeing young guys progress every day, watching consistency in his O-linemen play after play, week after week, year after year. He spoke of the importance of “stacking days” a common refrain we always hear from his players.
He didn’t take the chance to pat himself on the back because that’s not who he is and there’s no time for that anyway. There’s plenty of work still to be done and plenty of offensive linemen to mold into great players.
That’s the thing about Stoutland. Sure, maybe he was looking forward to that golf trip back in 2018. But there’s no one who loves coaching offensive linemen more than him. And the Eagles are incredibly lucky he’s doing it in Philly.