Philadelphia memories surface with John DeFilippo wherever he goes.
The well-traveled Vikings offensive coordinator has a replica of the Lombardi Trophy in his St. Paul home, a gift Eagles coach Doug Pederson gave to his entire staff after Philadelphia won its franchise’s first Super Bowl last winter with DeFilippo coaching quarterbacks.
And all the quarterbacks he has coached, from the Oakland Raiders to the New York Jets to the Eagles and the Vikings, always get asked a trivia question about the Philadelphia 76ers — “I saw [7-foot-6] Shawn Bradley’s first game as a Sixer and he was not the tallest person at the tip. [It was 7-7] Gheorghe Muresan.” The Sixers were one of the teams DeFilippo cheered for as an impressionable teenager from a northwest suburb of Philly in the mid-1990s.
The son of former Villanova athletic director Gene DeFilippo calls Philadelphia “home” despite living in nearly 15 cities during his travels. So his next homecoming will be Sunday when the Vikings play the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game.
For a moment, at least, DeFilippo will lean into the emotions.
“Probably right when the national anthem is being sung, look up at the banner and see Super Bowl 52 champions and know I was a very small piece of that,” DeFilippo said. “It’ll be pretty neat, but like I said once the game kicks off — it’s another game.”
Another game in which DeFilippo will call plays for a Vikings offense trying to maintain a top-five passing attack and lift its league-worst run game into productivity.
The Vikings (1-2-1) and Eagles (2-2) had envisioned a more enticing rematch at this point. But don’t tell those on either sideline this game lacks any luster nearly nine months removed from the Eagles’ 38-7 demolition of the Vikings to earn a Super Bowl bid at U.S. Bank Stadium.
While the Eagles had reason to be confident, DeFilippo said not even he saw that result coming.
“It wouldn’t have shocked me if it was reversed,” DeFilippo said.
Even down to the fine-point preparation, this week has been a little different. DeFilippo, 40, was able to inform Vikings coaches and players about his knowledge of the Eagles’ defenders, who he coached against during two seasons of practices in Philadelphia.
“He went up there and gave us a very extensive breakdown on guys and what he saw in them when he was there,” tight end David Morgan said. “I definitely think with his knowledge of how they are and who they are as players, he’ll be able to attack them more.”
The 40-year-old DeFilippo has seen about all Philadelphia has to offer — even standing opposite an infamously rabid Eagles fan base three times as a Giants assistant coach in 2005 and 2006.
One memory rose to the surface from a 2006 NFC wild-card matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We’re driving down I-95, going down the ramp to the stadium and the next thing you hear is a bunch of thumps on the bus,” DeFilippo recalled. “I look out and there are eggs just running down the window. People are egging the bus on the way to the game. It’s intense.”
A decade later, the journey led him back to Philadelphia. Pederson, a first-time NFL head coach, assembled his Eagles staff in 2016. Previously a Chiefs coordinator, Pederson found his search for a quarterbacks coach landing on a former AFC West rival who had coached Raiders quarterbacks. Pederson said he saw a kindred spirit in DeFilippo.
“It was a perfect fit for me,” Pederson said. “Someone who thinks a lot like I do and has the same temperament.”
A bond quickly solidified. Asked about what he learned in Philadelphia, DeFilippo pointed to Pederson, the fellow offensive-minded coach. He credited Pederson with passing down an “aggressive” play-calling style and the ways to best trust assistant coaches working underneath him.
“He gave me a lot of room,” DeFilippo said. “And I thanked him for that when I left.”
Pederson called his former assistant a “detail-oriented coach” — detail on a schedule. DeFilippo sticks to 5 a.m. workouts at a nearby Orangetheory gym about four times a week. After an early bedtime this Saturday night, DeFilippo said he’ll walk two blocks from the Vikings’ downtown Philadelphia hotel on Sunday morning to the same Orangetheory gym where he worked out while coaching for the Eagles.
“I’ll keep my normal pregame routine,” DeFilippo said. “It’s a business trip.”
One that could become another lasting Philadelphia memory.