Coach carousel spinning, DeFilippo focused on steering Vikes
By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — With four weekends left in the regular season, two NFL teams have already fired their coaches. Several other underperforming clubs have dismissed assistants.
The coaching carousel is in full spin, the unsettling part of these high-pressure, intensely scrutinized jobs.
“I hate this time of year,” Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said, lamenting the way families of fired coaches are subjected to the upheaval. “I was one of those kids. I grew up this way. So I’m a little bit sensitive to it, OK?”
His father, Gene DeFilippo, was a college assistant coach who moved into administration and was the athletic director at Villanova and Boston College. Those roles and eras were different than calling plays in 2018 for the Vikings, sure, but the spotlight of big-time sports still exposed him to plenty of public disparagement.
John DeFilippo has been a frequent target of that himself lately. The Vikings have been held under 300 total yards in three of their past four games, and they’re facing another daunting matchup on Monday night at Seattle.
The hottest topic has been the run-pass imbalance, which even caused head coach Mike Zimmer to join the chorus of critics after the Vikings lost 24-10 last week at New England. Dalvin Cook rushed for 84 yards, but he only had nine carries. DeFilippo said on Friday after practice that he pointed out “two or three” plays in the game against the Patriots where he should have called a run instead of a pass.
“Coach and I are in constant communication of how to make this offense better. We talk all the time,” said DeFilippo, who’s in his first season with the Vikings after serving as quarterbacks coach for Philadelphia. “There’s certain things that he believes in and that I believe in as well.”
Despite the recent struggles by the Vikings (6-5-1), who rank 16th in the league in yards and 18th in points, DeFilippo’s name is among the candidates already in full circulation on the NFL speculation circuit. One oddsmaker pegged him as the second-most likely replacement in Green Bay for fired head coach Mike McCarthy, trailing only Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“I’m pretty much in this building about 18 to 20 hours a day, so I don’t hear a lot of that outside noise, good or bad,” DeFilippo said. “So I’m just dead set on doing my job right now. We have a quarter of our season left that’s a very, very important quarter. For me to think of anything besides our football team would being a lot of people a disservice.”
From quarterback Kirk Cousins to tight end Kyle Rudolph to wide receiver Adam Thielen, several of Minnesota’s offensive players have not been shy about publicly stating their evaluations of what’s gone wrong and what they believe are the best ways to make the process go right on a more consistent basis. More involvement for Cook has been mentioned often. Getting those screen passes going is another theory. Eschewing the huddle and employing more up-tempo possessions, too, has been given multiple thumbs-up.
“There’s constant dialogue, and that’s every week, after every series,” Cousins said. “You’re trying to continue to stay on the same page.”
Whatever the method, the offense is well aware of the burden it’s carrying into the final quarter of the season.
“Obviously there’s some frustration on our side of the ball, knowing that our defense has played so well and we haven’t kind of pulled our end,” Thielen said, adding: “We just need to get back to who we are. We know we have the guys in the room to do it.”