John DeFilippo’s first run as an offensive coordinator was brief and rocky.
In 2015, DeFilippo was in charge of a Cleveland Browns offense that was short on talent and high on drama. Overall they finished 30th in points scored and routinely made headlines because of quarterback Johnny Manziel’s issues both with the team and off the field.
This time around, DeFilippo has landed in a much more stable situation with a head coach who has won 40 games over four years, a veteran quarterback and a host of weapons.
While DeFilippo’s time in Cleveland didn’t go as planned — the team moved on from the coaching staff after one year — the Vikings’ offensive coordinator said he learned valuable lessons from his experience.
“The first time you do it, you want everything to be so perfect, every single little detail,” DeFilippo said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t want that now. The old saying, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff.’ You kind of figure out what the small stuff is. That’s the one thing I learned, especially in a tough situation. I learned to really know what’s important. I feel like Coach Zimmer and I communicate very, very well. I know kind of what the important things are to stress and what to lay off on.”
Earlier this offseason DeFilippo talked about how operating a team in the past that was short on skill helped him.
“What really helps is I’ve done the job before,” he said. “Done the job on a team where you really had to manufacture yards and find ways to get guys open. Was it a great situation at the time? No. Was it perfect? No. At the same time, I think it really helped to prepare how to coach. When you do get that opportunity when you do have guys that maybe are the next step up in terms of ability.”
DeFilippo has big shoes to fill. Last year Pat Shurmur — now the head coach of the New York Giants — guided the Vikings’ offense to the 10th best scoring output despite losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford.
Head coach Mike Zimmer talked Wednesday about he and DeFilippo’s constant communication in the early portions of camp.
“I talk to him a lot about things that hurt the defense, things he’s doing good, things I have to ask him questions about [like] how come you didn’t block this guy on this play or whatever,” Zimmer said. “I spend a lot of time with him. He’s great. He’s very respectful, he’s very knowledgable, he listens.”
Zimmer went through a similar learning curve when going from position coach to defensive coordinator
“I learned going from a secondary coach to coordinator that I thought I had all the answers with the defensive line and I didn’t, so I had to go find out about that and learn and study and make sure I became an expert at that position as well,” Zimmer said.
DeFilippo will get his first look at his offense in a “real” game on Saturday when the Vikings open their preseason against Denver.