Stringing together winning seasons and bowl games, and being a contender for the conference title is something that hadn't been done at Duke in a long time before David Cutcliffe took the reigns of the program. You'd have to go way back to the Spurrier era.
Since 2008, Cutcliffe has consistently built the Duke program where proudly stand today - expecting to play in bowl games, and able to compete with anyone that lines up across from them. Cutcliffe hasn't done it by throwing a $1 million annual contract at the hottest coordinator or assistant when he finds himself with an opening, instead he focuses on instilling the Duke way in every one of his assistants and support staffers, from assistant coaches and coordinators, to the support staff who fulfill the most thankless jobs.
Jared Shanker of ESPN profiled that "farm system" of sorts that Cutcliffe utilizes at Duke, where he often opts to promote from within rather than try to make splash hire with someone from the outside.
But, why you may ask? Cut offered the following explanation:
"There’s a huge reason we do it: Our greatest winning edge is our day-to-day operations in practice, how we manage and motivate and mentor players. It’s somewhat of a learned behavior in that regard. We are very committed to the mentorship, not just the coaching, and so I think our people really understand that. And the greatest benefactors from that are our players."
That's where Cutcliffe separates himself from many other head coaches, according to those on staff he has mentored over the years; he spends a ton of time coaching his coaches.
Receivers coach Jeffrey Faris notes in the piece that Cut "spends the time that I'm sure no other head coach in the country would do helping [non-staff personnel] understand, coaching them on how to really coach."
His offensive coordinator Kurt Roper went on to join Will Muschamp's staff at Florida, before heading to the NFL ranks for a season and he's now at South Carolina under Muschamp again, Scottie Montgomery went from Duke offensive coordinator to head coach at ECU, and Matt Lubick left the Blue Devils as a wide receivers to take the same post at Oregon, where he worked his way into the offensive coordinator role in a few seasons. The list goes on and on.
Assistant Matt Guerrieri, who worked with the safeties as a graduate assistant might have said it best, noting coach Cutcliffe "ingrains his philosophies in every assistant, from coordinator to intern. What people don’t realize is he’s going to coach his coaches on how to coach just as hard as he coaches his players how to play. What he does is find young talent and cultivate it, and then give you more responsibilities as a GA underneath him."