John DeFilippo has lost track of the number of times he’s moved in his life.
Maybe 18? Maybe 19? He can’t remember.
His father, Gene, relocated the family numerous times when John was a child, taking assistant coaching jobs or athletic director positions in the college ranks.
The son eventually followed suit, embarking in 2000 as a 22-year-old on a coaching journey that spanned 18 seasons and 11 positions within nine organizations — four college, five professional.
Safe to say DeFilippo is accustomed to being on the move.
It seems appropriate, then, that on the same day he took part in his first Super Bowl parade after helping guide backup Nick Foles through a heroic — and unlikely — playoff run as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach, DeFilippo accepted his 12th coaching job as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator.
“How many guys can say they participated in a Super Bowl parade in the morning and became one of 32 play-callers in the National Football League that night?” said DeFilippo on his introductory conference call. “It was a whirlwind that was 100 percent worth it. I’ll tell you, that was professionally and personally, my wife and I, I would say besides the day we got married, it was probably one of our better days as a married couple.”
‘Meeting people, making friends’
The 39-year-old’s journey began as the quarterbacks coach at Fordham the fall after graduating from James Madison University. From there, DeFilippo spent time with Notre Dame and Columbia before getting his first NFL gig in 2005 as the offensive quality control coach with the New York Giants.
Then he took a job on the West Coast in 2007 as the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach but spent 2008 on a lame-duck staff following Lane Kiffin’s firing.
DeFilippo spent a year under Rex Ryan with the New York Jets in 2009 before moving back to the college level for a two-year stint with San Jose State, where he got to call plays for the first time in 2011.
After that, he wound up on Dennis Allen’s Oakland Raiders staff in 2012, but Allen was fired in 2014, and current Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano served as the interim coach for the final 12 games before he and DeFilippo were let go.
“I’m very close with coach Sparano, his wife Jeanette and their family,” said DeFilippo.
In 2015, DeFilippo got his first chance as an NFL play-caller with the Cleveland Browns and was given an exciting second-year quarterback named Johnny Manziel, but Manziel’s career fizzled due to excessive partying and alcohol abuse, which, compounded with poor play, led to his 2016 release.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine was fired, and once again DeFilippo was looking for work. That’s when he landed with the Eagles and No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz, who blossomed in his second season and turned into an MVP candidate before tearing his ACL, at which point DeFilippo and offensive coordinator Frank Reich worked their magic on Foles.
After landing in a handful of bad situations during his previous NFL stops, things finally came together for DeFilippo in Philly. But he still believes there was immense value in his circuitous journey, which culminated in Thursday’s Super Bowl parade.
“When you grow up in this,” said DeFilippo, “and you’re forced to put yourself in different situations, meeting people, making friends, it forces you to kind of put yourself out there a little bit. The same way as a coach, I think the more you expose yourself, the more you’re exposed to different things, I think the more you learn.”
The next chapter
As DeFilippo has cycled through teams, so too have the Vikings cycled through offensive coordinators. The 39-year-old will become Minnesota’s fourth since 2013.
He replaces Pat Shurmur, who accepted the head coaching job with the Giants after engineering a 10th-ranked offense that wore defenses down with a two-headed rushing attack, two superb receivers, strong tight ends and impeccable third-down efficiency.
DeFilippo dealt with a similar collection of talent in Philadelphia as the Eagles used a diverse stable of backs, receivers and tight ends to score the third-most points and rush for the third-most yards in football in the regular season.
In the playoffs, they scored 79 points and passed for over 700 yards combined in the last two games against two of the best defenses in the league.
But before DeFilippo can go to work devising an offensive blueprint for the Vikings, he’ll need to give his input on the biggest offseason decision.
Who’s going to be the quarterback?
“If you have character at that position, you have a chance to succeed,” said DeFilippo. “If you don’t have it, you have zero chance to succeed. So number one, we are going to look for a person that is going to represent our football team and conduct himself the way we want him on and off the football field. That is very, very important. Number two, the three most important attributes of playing the quarterback position are decision making, timing and accuracy. We are going to heavily research into those three factors with whoever is the quarterback next year in Minnesota and really dig into those three areas.
“I am not a big believer in quarterbacks that are sticks in the mud back there,” DeFilippo added. “They’re in cement back there at seven-and-a-half yards deep. Our quarterbacks are going to need to show some form of athleticism.”
Stay for a while?
It’s fair to ask whether DeFilippo will be in it for the long-haul in Minnesota.
After getting two head coaching interviews with the Chicago Bears and Arizona Cardinals this winter, DeFilippo may yearn to complete his rise up the coaching ladder and run a team someday soon.
As Shurmur’s departure showed, successful offensive coordinators are hot commodities.
Are the Vikings an end goal or a stepping stone for DeFilippo?
The journeyman coach doesn’t believe in looking that far ahead.
“I’ve been very blessed with a one-day-at-a-time-mindset,” said DeFilippo. “There’s been times in my career that I’ve had to pick myself up, dust myself off. There’s been times I’ve ridden down Broad Street in a Super Bowl parade and everywhere in between. I’m very fortunate that I keep things one day at a time.”
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