Last December, Minnesota visited the Seattle Seahawks and lost 21-7 in a game that ended the Viking career of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Here’s why.
Some Vikings fans have stopped thinking about John DeFilippo. Some have just blacked him out.
Hired from the staff of the 2017 World Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the off-season of 2018, DeFilippo was the quarterbacks’ coach for both Eagles’ signal-callers’ Carson Wentz and Nick Foles en route to the Lombardi Trophy.
What Rick Spielman saw in DeFilippo at the end of that Eagles 2017 championship season is what perhaps we all saw, an individual who could be the final piece of the puzzle in getting the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl.
‘Flip’ was the brainiac with the visor and clipboard, the right shoes, the diction, the attitude, the grasp of the details of a truly modern vertical passing game.
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No one remembered that this “quarterback whisperer” was indeed the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2015. His offense ended the season with the 30th rank in total offense in the season and the Browns finished the year 3-13.
No one took note that for five years as the QB coach in Oakland and Philadelphia, DeFilippo never called plays. He did, however, have a great resume with the names of young Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, and Nick Foles and Vince Lombardi (the Super Bowl Trophy), on it.
Fast forward to September of 2018. OTAs are over; camp is done. DeFilippo’s “aerial dynamics” have been installed. The Minnesota offense is now replete with the players and playbook to torch the league. Additional fireworks are ordered for US Bank Stadium to celebrate Vikings’ touchdowns.
After five games, the Vikings were 4-3-1, and averaging 66 yards a game rushing the football and ranking 20th in the NFL in total offense. After their bye week, they ran for just 22 yards against the Bears in Chicago, losing a close battle, 25-20.
After a road loss in New England in which the 6-4-1 Vikings watched their sputtering offense easily outmatched by the Patriots, RB Dalvin Cook averaged 9.3 yards a carry but only touched the ball nine times.
The NFL press had become well-aware that ‘Flip’ and ‘Zim’ weren’t getting along in regard to the Vikings’ OC way of doing things almost exclusively by air. Raised in the ‘Old School’ of running the football as an offensive priority, the elder coach told DeFilippo to run the damn thing and get some damn points or he was going to lose his job.
In Seattle, the Vikings offense was so inept that they didn’t score a point until there was 1:17 left in a 21-0 football game. They ran the football 21 times for 77 yards and while the Seahawks ran it 42 times for 214; the absolute crux of the contest.
DeFilippo was fired the next day, and the numbers clearly rationalized the move.
The Vikings offense hasn’t scored more than 24 points in six straight games, ranked 17th in total yards per game (354.4), eighth in passing yards per game (269.0), 30th in rushing yards per game (85.4) and 20th in scoring (21.7).
A Year Later
John DeFilippo is now the OC in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars are the 26th ranked defense in the league, averaging less than 19 points a game. What’s revealing about this is that the Jacksonville offense ranks 12th in passing yards and 13th in rushing yards, but can’t seem to score points.
That’s the mark of an awful offensive coordinator. Yards are not registering on the scoreboard and are coming about after the fact of the game’s results.
The Jags are in the basement of the AFC South, a division without any standout teams.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings are a year removed from DeFilippo’s dynamic aerial tactics and are back to a classic stratagem of a rush-first offense. After 11 games they have a running back that is a 1000-yard rusher, a ground attack averaging over 150 yards a game, and a quarterback in the conversation for the NFL MVP race.
They will face the Seattle Seahawks again on Monday Night Football on December, almost an exact year after their unimpressive performance last year.
If any other players or coaches are thinking about such a thing, I’m betting Mike Zimmer is. He worked too hard on his own defensive unit last year to see his team play so poorly on the other side of the ball.
The changes that have been made–dramatic ones indeed–have proven that the decision to stop playing with delusions of high-flying football were sound and the more traditional and physical game they’ll take into Seattle next week is producing yards, first downs, points, and victories.