In January, the Eagles blocked John DeFilippo from interviewing with the New York Jets for their offensive coordinator opening. But there will be little they can do this offseason to stop their quarterbacks coach from leaving, especially if he is offered a head-coaching job.
It is rare for a position coach to make the jump to head coach, but DeFilippo has previous coordinating experience, and, based on the success of the 8-1 Eagles and Carson Wentz this season, it is likely that the 39-year-old assistant will be among the more sought-after candidates for higher office.
“I’m very fortunate that I was blessed with a mind that takes a one-day-at-a-time mentality,” DeFilippo said last week when asked about future coaching opportunities. “That’s what I preach in the quarterback room, and that’s the way I live my life.”
NFL front offices don’t have that luxury. Any organizations that find themselves already in the position of having to consider a possible change this offseason are currently vetting coaches. As many as eight or nine teams could be in the market, but the ones that are poised to draft a first-round quarterback or recently made that investment could be potential suitors for DeFilippo.
The Jets, Browns, Bears and Cardinals seemingly fit the profile. DeFilippo previously worked for the Jets and Browns, but nowhere is that circumstance as much as prerequisite to becoming a head coach as it is with the New York Giants. And DeFilippo began his NFL coaching career with the Giants, who could be poised to cut bait with Ben McAdoo after just two years.
The Eagles understood that when they interceded with DeFilippo’s chances elsewhere, partly to maintain continuity between the coach and Wentz, it could be done only once. Having good assistants move up the coaching tree to other franchises is all part of having success, although they have never lost one to an NFC East rival.
But the Eagles, barring some sort of collapse, should be prepared for their staff to be ravaged by teams looking for coordinators and head coaches. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Frank Reich would also likely be in play for top spots, while running backs coach Duce Staley and defensive backs coach Cory Undlin could be in contention to head units on their respective sides of the ball.
The recipe for drafting and developing Wentz, however, will draw teams hoping to taste some of the Eagles’ two-year turnaround. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson are, of course, the architects of that plan. And Reich has been part of the execution from the start.
But DeFilippo has been on the ground floor. Of the coaches, he spends the most amount of time with Wentz. And while DeFilippo would be the first to acknowledge that his star pupil deserves the bulk of credit for his accomplishments, Wentz points out his coach’s role in his rapid ascent.
Understandably, the quarterback isn’t willing to look beyond their unfinished work and the possibility of DeFilippo’s departure.
“Right now, he’s here. We got a good thing going,” Wentz said Monday. “Obviously don’t like to think too much about that. I’ve been thrilled that he’s been here and I think that we work together really well.”
Wentz would jell with most any coach, but, like many quarterbacks, he is idiosyncratic. That is why it was important for the Eagles to block DeFilippo and maintain continuity. Wentz not only had become accustomed to his drills, meetings and film study, but the mechanical changes he made this offseason were, in part, recommended by his coach.
Pederson and Reich would have still been here, but no coach on the staff knows Wentz’s throwing motion or his preferences as well as DeFilippo.
“He’s just really detailed,” Wentz said. “He’s systematic with his thought process for some of the things that we put in and install. The way that he’s detailed we kind of dot every ‘i,’ cross every ‘t’ together.”
The relationship has been fruitful because Wentz is just as detailed-oriented. They obsess over having an answer to every defensive scheme they may face. Sub-package pressures, for instance, have been a puzzle the pair will spend countless hours studying and debating over how to beat.
DeFilippo knows when to “love-up” Wentz, but he’s just as tough on the quarterback. When they review the film, his first comment is, “Be your own worst critic.”
“I think he and I see the game very similarly,” DeFilippo said. “We’re both very serious people when it comes to football. We both enjoy the grind of the week and preparing to get ready for an opponent. We’re not afraid to arrive early, stay late, [leave no] stone uncovered.”
Roseman and Pederson originally told DeFilippo that they wouldn’t stand in his way if given the opportunity to become a coordinator again. He spent a year in Cleveland in that post before the entire staff was fired. But Jeffrey Lurie uncharacteristically stepped in.
The Eagles owner won’t be able to intervene if there are head-coaching interview requests, however, even from the Giants, who have hired only one coach (Dan Reeves) over the last 34 years without prior coaching experience in the organization.
A lot must happen before there is that possibility. And the Eagles’ success, should they make the postseason and advance, could complicate DeFilippo’s opportunities. But that’s a good problem for both the coach and the team to have.
“I’m just trying to be the best quarterback coach in the NFL this year,” DeFilippo said. “Usually when you do that and you have that mindset, good things happen.”