After losing four of their last six games, the Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1) relieved pass-happy John DeFilippo of his offensive coordinator duties.
The Vikings finished 13-3 last season and were one game away from the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship game and went on to win Super Bowl LII. This season, the Vikings are struggling with a 6-6-1 record, yet currently hold the second Wild Card spot by a slim margin.
The offense sputtered in recent weeks and the running game disappeared completely. Head coach Mike Zimmer and DeFilippo were feuding over the lack of overall production with the third-worst rushing attack in the NFL. With three weeks remaining in the season, including two NFC North division games, the Vikes are on thin ice. Zimmer and the Vikings need to do something drastic to shake up the dormant offense.
After a 21-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, the Vikings fired DeFilippo on Tuesday morning. The Vikings averaged 15.6 points in their last five games. During the current two-game losing streak, the Vikings scored 17 total points and seven of those came from a garbage-time touchdown late in the Seattle game.
“I felt like I don’t want the season to be wasted,” said head coach Mike Zimmer. “Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but these three games to me are very, very critical and we need to play good.”
The Vikings promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski to the role of OC. Stefanski joined the Vikings in 2006 and he’s the longest-tenured coach with the organization. Stefanski becomes the fourth OC for Zimmer in four seasons.
More Than a Thielen
In the offseason, the Vikings upgraded their quarterback when Kirk Cousins signed a lucrative deal worth $84 million in guaranteed money. In addition, RB Dalvin Cook returned from the knee injury that prematurely ended his rookie season. Things were looking up for the Vikings.
DeFilippo’s pass-heavy offense looked good to start the season. Kirk Cousins took advantage of the best WR tandem in the NFL with Stefon Diggs (6 TD) and Adam Thielen (9 TD). Thielen began the season with a remarkable feat, catching 100 or more yards in the first eight games. His streak ending also coincided with the overall offense in a tailspin.
The Vikings have two strong running backs on their roster with Latavius Murray and Cook, yet they abandoned the running attack in the second half of the season. The fact that Cook has more passing touchdowns than rushing scores is an indication of how backward the offense hasd become.
Last season, only the Jacksonville Jaguars ran the ball more than the Vikings, who averaged 31 rushes per game in 2017. This season, the Vikings average only 85.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks them 30 out of 32 in the NFL.
John DeFilippo, 40, is the son of a football coach. His father Gene DeFilippo coached the offense at Youngstown State and Vanderbilt. DeFilippo played quarterback at James Madison University in the late 1990s before he followed his father into the coaching ranks. DeFilippo broke in as the QB coach at Fordham University in the Bronx. He also spent a couple seasons with Notre Dame as a graduate assistant and also coached Ivy League football at Columbia.
In 2005, the NY Giants hired DeFilippo as their “get back” coach and he finally broke into the NFL. He spent two seasons in Oakland before Rex Ryan hired DeFilippo as the Jets QB coach. He also spent three seasons in Oakland before he finally landed his first OC gig.
The Cleveland Browns hired DeFilippo in 2015, but he was fired the next year when they dumped head coach Mike Pettine after a 3-13 season.
Philly to Minny
In 2016, Doug Pedereson took over for the Philadelphia Eagles and hired DeFilippo as his QB coach. Reporting to OC Frank Reich, DeFilippo also worked with Carson Wentz during his breakout rookie season.
Last season, DeFilippo continued to the coach the Eagles during their Super Bowl run. He guided backup QB Nick Foles as a successful replacement when Carson Wentz blew out his knee.
After winning the Super Bowl, the coaching staff was raided. The Indianapolis Colts offered Frank Reich the head coaching position after New England OC Josh McDaniels backed out at the last second.
The Minnesota Vikings were in the hunt for a new OC after Pat Shurmur accepted the head coaching job with the New York Giants. They liked what DeFilippo offered based on his success with the Eagles. Despite the lack of experience, the Vikings figured they’d hire someone from the team that crushed them in the NFC Championship.
Before the firing, DeFilippo made the short list of possible rumored candidates to replace Mike McCarthy in Green Bay.
The South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas updated their Super Bowl odds and the Vikings are 40-1 favorites to win Super Bowl LIII.