Growing up the son of a coach, new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo got an early taste of the nomadic path he would take as a professional when his father, Gene, moved from Ohio to jobs in Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky before settling in Philadelphia as the athletic director at Villanova.
“I think I’ve lost count, but I think this is my 18th or 19th move,” DeFilippo said Friday. “I’ve lost count.”
As the 39-year-old settles into his new job as Pat Shurmur’s replacement, Vikings fans should not be surprised if DeFilippo’s number of address changes goes up by one in the near future.
He reportedly received a two-year deal with the Vikings, putting him under contract through 2019. That would likely tie DeFilippo’s employment status to that of coach Mike Zimmer, whose current deal reportedly runs through 2019 (and, for that matter, General Manager Rick Spielman, whose own deal is believed to be on the same schedule as Zimmer’s). DeFilippo, though, is an up-and-comer in the industry who interviewed for the Bears head coaching opening last month and might have talked to the Colts about their opening had the Vikings not locked him up first. A good year with the Vikings could have him among the league’s hot head coaching candidates as soon as January.
“There were certain things that came up during Super Bowl week and my agent [Trace Armstrong] tried to call me, but he and I wouldn’t even talk,” DeFilippo said. “I said, ‘I don’t even want to talk about it, because the more I talk about it, that’s time I’m taking away from the quarterbacks of the Philadelphia Eagles.’ That’s not fair to them, that’s not fair to the team. I’ve been very blessed with a one-game-at-a-time mind-set. There have been times in my career I’ve had to pick myself up and dust myself off. There have been times where I’ve ridden down Broad Street in a Super Bowl parade — and everywhere in between. I’m very fortunate to keep things one day at a time.”
DeFilippo will be Zimmer’s third offensive coordinator in five years, but this time the Vikings are replacing a coordinator in Shurmur who is now the head man with the Giants. And even if DeFilippo’s time with the Vikings turns out to be short, that might not be the worst thing in the world — because it will probably have meant that DeFilippo helped the team hit on a pivotal decision.
The Vikings are in a peculiar position among the NFL’s well-heeled teams, coming off a 13-3 season with a stockpile of impact players under contract at virtually every position but the most important one on the roster.
Quarterback has been the spot, for one reason or another, the Vikings really haven’t been able to solidify for more than a few years at a time since the days of Fran Tarkenton. It certainly has been the most nagging spot for Spielman, who has been here through Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum.
Try as the Vikings might, it’s not feasible to expect sustainable success if the QB turnstile keeps spinning at the rate it has during Spielman’s 11 seasons, when seven QBs have taken opening-day snaps and five — Jackson, Favre, Joe Webb, Bridgewater and Keenum — have started playoff games.
The Vikings have options in front of them, whether they believe Keenum can replicate his 2017 success, Bridgewater can return from his knee injury to the starting job after being inactive for two playoff games, Kirk Cousins can thrive in Minnesota or some other option (A draft pick? Another trade with Philadelphia for Nick Foles?) can provide the consistency the team has long sought at the position.
DeFilippo said Friday he will have “as much say as [Zimmer and Spielman] want me to” in the quarterback decision, and as he beat out Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski for the coordinator job, it was hard not to credit his wizened outlook on passers borne of his time with a rogue’s gallery of young QBs — everyone from Carson Wentz and Derek Carr to Jamarcus Russell and Johnny Manziel.
“I am going to leave no stone unturned,” he said. “Like I said, we talked about it last night, it is going to be a collaborative effort — something that we all agree on. I’ve been through this situation before searching for Derek Carr and Carson Wentz. I’ve had some experience in this situation in trying to find your quarterback to lead your football team. As much or as little of my input that they want I will give them. But I know whatever information I give them will be very educated and very researched.”
If he gets it right, DeFilippo could have another team knocking on his door with a head coaching offer by this time next year. The fast-rising coach’s stay in Minnesota need not necessarily be long, though, if his parting gift to the Vikings is a quarterback fit that can last.
Ben Goessling covers the Vikings for the Star Tribune. Twitter: @GoesslingStrib. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org