The Minnesota Vikings’ second drive on Saturday got off to a rocky start when Kirk Cousins faked a handoff to Latavius Murray and rolled to his right on a naked bootleg. Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue awaited him for an uncontested sack after right tackle Aviante Collins had moved to block the inside rusher.
New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, just two preseason games into his Vikings tenure, was quick to fall on the sword at Tuesday’s press conference.
“A.C. was playing right tackle,” said DeFilippo, referring to Collins who’d been asked to play several positions during that week of practice. “I didn’t do a good enough job coaching that play.”
As it turns out, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach is tormented by failed plays much like a quarterback who throws an interception or a running back who fumbles the football.
It’s the second straight week DeFilippo has rued some calls. Even as the Vikings put up 42 points against the Denver Broncos on Aug. 11, he ostensibly didn’t call a perfect game.
“What stood out,” said head coach Mike Zimmer, “was when he made a call he felt like he probably shouldn’t have made how he talked to himself.”
DeFilippo had more reason to be upset after Saturday’s loss to the Jaguars in which Minnesota produced just 10 points, 238 yards and zero third-down conversions in 12 chances.
“I’m looking forward to myself bouncing back, our whole offense bouncing back,” DeFilippo said. “Personally I didn’t think it was my best effort. Starting with me in the offense, I think that we all can be better, and I think we will be this week.”
The 40-year-old has said he might experiment with calling plays on the sideline and in the coaches’ box upstairs. He prefers to be on the lower level, though, to feel the flow of the game and cut out any middle men if he wants to communicate with the quarterback. He spent his first two games patrolling the sideline, just like his predecessor Pat Shurmur. Former Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, on the other hand, called plays from the coaches’ box.
DeFilippo said he wishes he could get two or three plays back from the Jaguars game. He undergoes a thorough self-critique after each playcalling performance.
“If you want to get better, you judge yourself harshly,” he said. “I go back personally and watch the games several times and say, ‘Hey, what calls did I like? Which calls did I not like? Did I put the team in harm’s way?’ And you go back and you self-evaluate yourself after every game, whether it’s preseason, regular season, playoffs, it really doesn’t matter. I think if you don’t do that you’re not getting better, and you’re not putting the football team in the best chance for success.”
DeFilippo is three years removed from calling plays with the Cleveland Browns in 2015. At that point he was a first-time playcaller at age 37 — and equally hard on himself. He told reporters Tuesday that he still thinks about missed opportunities with the Browns every couple days.
“I think I called 1,257 plays or something in 2015. I guarantee if I went out and had 1,257 swings at my 5-iron I’m gonna shank a few. Not many, but a few.”
Actually, just 1,042 plays. But who’s counting? It was a forgettable 2015 Browns season that ended in a 3-13 record and a cleansing of the coaching staff.
DeFilippo has substantially more playmakers on his current roster, including — he hopes — Laquon Treadwell, who appreciates DeFilippo’s forthrightness.
“That’s nothing we didn’t expect,” said Treadwell. “He’s been doing that since he’s been here. If he feels like he didn’t call a good practice, he’ll put it on his shoulders, and that’s what he came into the room and told us from the jump. We hold ourselves to high standards, and we take a lot of the blame also.”
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