Six years may not seem like a very long time, but in the National Football League, that may as well be a lifetime.
No one knows this more than Michael Clay.
Just six years ago, Clay was roaming the Eagles' sidelines as the team's assistant special teams coordinator. In the time since, he has endured a two-win season, enjoyed the thrills of a Super Bowl run, and suffered the heartbreak of coming oh so close to winning it all.
But with those peaks and valleys came the growth that helped him land his first coordinator position in the NFL at just 29 years old.
While Clay's success seemingly occurred overnight, it didn't. It was something he had spent years preparing for, so when it came time to sit down with Head Coach Nick Sirianni for the Eagles' special teams coordinator position, Clay was ready.
According to Sirianni, Clay's interview was simply "incredible."
"Anything we threw at him, he had an answer for, and it was a good, detailed answer that he's thought through," Sirianni said of Clay.
"You can just tell that this guy has been preparing to be a special teams coordinator his entire career," Sirianni added.
So, what can Eagles Everywhere expect out of Clay's special teams units?
According to the man himself, his players will play fast, with discipline and fearlessness. And when all of that adds up to a big play, they will not forget to have fun.
"You can be an absolute game-wrecker on special teams and if you have that mindset like, 'No one can stop me on the outside' or 'stop me on the interior.' It's one of those things where it gets your confidence up and now, you're playing at an elite level," Clay said during a recent episode of the Eagles Insider podcast.
Clay intends to bring that out of his players by getting to know them all on a personal level. The most paramount of the many lessons he has learned during his time away from Philadelphia was that understanding the players he's working with helps motivate them to perform at their best.
"In terms of getting everyone back to playing week in and week out 110 percent, you just got to understand where they're coming from," Clay said.
Whether it is offensive and defensive linemen in the trenches on field goals and punts, skill-position players returning or covering kickoffs and punts, or even quarterbacks who may hold on field goals and extra points, the special teams coordinator interacts with every facet of the roster. Clay believes finding ways to motivate every one of them is an essential part of his job.
"You get to know everyone," Clay added. "So, when you get to know everyone, you get to know their stories and you find ways to motivate them no matter what the situation is. You can be 13-1 or you could be 1-10, in order to get them to come out and play to their potential, just finding those little things to connect with those guys I think really helped me take me to where I am now."
Clay's methods have worked, as San Francisco's special teams units were among the best in the league each of the last three seasons. In 2018, kicker Robbie Gould was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month in December and hit a franchise-record 97.1 percent of his field goal attempts.
In 2019, the 49ers ranked second in the NFL in average starting field position and seventh in opponent average starting field position. Gould reached the 100-point plateau for the third consecutive season and was once again named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month in December.
During the 2020 season, punter Mitch Wishnowsky ranked ninth in punts inside the 20-yard line and was in the top 12 in both net and gross average.
With Clay at the helm, it shouldn't take another lifetime in NFL years for the Eagles' special teams units to be elite once again.