John DeFilippo has been given nearly everything he could have wanted in his new job except, perhaps, a history lesson.
Here’s what “Flip” should know: He is the rare new Vikings offensive coordinator burdened with succeeding someone who wasn’t chased out of town by Minnesota’s proprietary passive-aggressive second-guessing.
Jerry Burns invented the Midwest Coast Offense that Bill Walsh refined and renamed. Burnsie was a great offensive coach. He was often feted with grumbles.
Bob Schnelker’s scrunched face launched a thousand gripes, and Burnsie’s blue defense of him became the obvious precursor to Howard Stern radio.
Tom Moore would become one of the best offensive coordinators of his generation … after he left Minnesota and aligned with Peyton Manning.
Brian Billick set records with a backup quarterback. He departed amid golf claps after another NFC Championship Game pratfall.
More recently, the legendary Norv Turner quit on the job … and did everyone a favor. Except for, perhaps, DeFilippo.
Turner’s betrayal elevated Pat Shurmur. After sorting through the offensive line wreckage during the 2016 season, he proved himself in 2017. Deft in the red zone, innovative everywhere else, Shurmur coaxed career years out of backup quarterback Case Keenum, the previously underappreciated Jerick McKinnon and the eternally underappreciated Adam Thielen while getting more than expected out of Latavius Murray and a worrisome offensive line. Shurmur turned the rare season in which fans didn’t constantly second-guess the offensive coordinator into the head coaching job with the New York Giants.
If anyone failed to appreciate Shurmur’s skill, they should have watched an excellent Falcons team on Thursday night. Inside the 10, the Falcons look like they’re trying to run their offense in a studio apartment. They create no space for their skill-position players. Shurmur, you’ll remember, often had random Vikings coasting into the end zone, untouched.
I asked DeFilippo about the pressures of being an NFL offensive coordinator for a team with high expectations, one of the most second-guessed positions in American employment.
“If you’re worrying about that then you’re in the wrong profession,’’ he said. “I’m confident enough in myself and more so confident in the assistant coaches that are helping me and the players we have that are playing on our football team. I think any time you have the comfort level of a really, really good coaching staff that’s going to help you out and backed by really good players, I think that gives you a lot of confidence as a play caller.’’
Flip talks a good game. He’s personable and quotable, a rarity in an organization that seems to increasingly value blandness. And he offers unique experience. In his past two jobs, he was offensive coordinator for the coaching hostel known as the Cleveland Browns, and quarterbacks coach for the brain-powered Philadelphia Eagles, who won the Super Bowl with a guy who even with a ring and a trophy still looks like Napoleon Dynamite.
“I got to the doctor’s office and I don’t think I can do his job, but there’s everybody out there that thinks they can do mine,’’ DeFilippo said. “It’s just kind of the nature of the beast.’’
That’s a standard line from coordinators. What was interesting about this sentiment, this time, was that DeFilippo didn’t make that sound like a complaint, as Billick and Turner so often did. Flip seems comfortable with his new challenge, which is proving that he can guide an expensive franchise quarterback who has never won a playoff game and a franchise that has never won a Super Bowl to its first championship.
You get the feeling that DeFilippo is eager to prove himself, and follow the path cut by Billick and Shurmur.
“Obviously, I’ve done this job before, so it’s not foreign to me,’’ he said. “You kind of know how you want things to look and how you want things structured and the second go-round is a lot easier than the first.’’
It’s a working theory.
Jim Souhan’s podcasts can be found at TalkNorth.com.
On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org