BEREA, Ohio – John DeFilippo, who has a track record of developing young quarterbacks and maximizing production from the position, has been hired as the Browns’ new offensive coordinator, coach Mike Pettine announced Wednesday.
DeFilippo, who has been the Oakland Raiders’ quarterbacks coach for the past three seasons, replaces Kyle Shanahan, who resigned earlier this month.
“The things John brings to the table are exactly what we were looking for. He's the total package,” Pettine said. “He's very bright. He has great energy about him, great passion. Loves the game. Works extremely well with other people. You could see that when I brought him in and had a chance to meet with not just the offensive staff, but he spent time with the defensive staff. That was a big part of it, making sure we weren't bringing in just a playbook; we were bringing in a good person. That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons why he's here.”
DeFilippo interviewed for the same position last season. Pettine said it was a tough decision that ultimately came down to experience, but he had little doubt at the time DeFilippo was ready to call plays in the NFL.
“This isn't going to be my offense or ‘so and so's’ offense. This is going to be the Cleveland Browns' offense,” DeFilippo said. “Whatever that is to get our best players the football, it's going to be very flexible.
“We're not going to just scrap something just because I'm here. I don't have that type of ego. If something's good that our players do well and they know, we're going to keep doing it. That's going to be my job here the next few weeks is I'm going to really study our last 16 games of this season and see what we're good at, see where it fits and see where it meshes with myself and coach Pettine seeing this offense.”
Pettine, who enters his second season as the Browns’ head coach, has stressed the importance of continuity within the organization. There’s going to be a transition with a new offensive coordinator, Pettine said, but the team’s commitment to running the football hasn’t gone anywhere.
At an offensive coordinator position that’s been in flux in recent years, DeFilippo said he hopes this is “the last change for these guys for a long time.”
“One of the things Mike and I talked about in our interview was if there's something these guys are familiar with in terms of a name, I don't need to change the name just because I see it as, for example, the play's called ‘smash’ and they call it ‘hammer.’ I can learn,” DeFilippo said. “Let one guy learn the new tag for it.
“We're going to make this offense, the transition as simple as we can for our players. I think they'll really like playing in this offense.”
After his first stint as the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach (2007-08), DeFilippo worked with Pettine for one successful season with the New York Jets. Under DeFilippo’s guidance, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez showed enough poise to lead New York to the AFC Championship. Pettine was the Jets’ defensive coordinator that season.
The coaches remained in touch and developed a strong relationship over the past five years.
“Defensively, we worked late and worked some real late hours (in New York),” Pettine said. “A lot of times we'd look over on the offensive side and in the little area where the coaches were, his light would be the only one on. We spent a lot of late nights in New York talking football. That's when I knew this guy had something to him.”
In 2011, DeFilippo got his first shot at calling plays with San Jose State, where he’d been quarterbacks coach the previous season. The Spartans’ offense thrived under his watch and finished the season 23rd in passing offense (276.8 yards per game) and jumped 32 spots in total offense. His quarterback, Matt Faulkner, completed 274-of-422 passes for 3,149 yards and 13 touchdowns.
DeFilippo returned to the Raiders in 2012 and worked with veteran Carson Palmer during one of the most productive seasons of his career. Palmer threw for the second-most yards in Raiders history (4,018) to go along with 22 touchdown passes.
In 2013, DeFilippo worked with the young tandem of Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin, who combined to throw for 3,345 yards. Pryor added 576 rushing yards, the most by a quarterback in Raiders’ history, while McGloin had more passes of 25 or more yards from Week 11 to Week 15 than any quarterback in the NFL.
This past season, he worked with another young quarterback, rookie Derek Carr, who is viewed by many as one of the NFL’s rising stars after starting all 16 games and throwing for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“I think he has an excellent way with those guys,” Pettine said. “He can be tough on them and at the same time, not have them tune him out. I think he holds those guys accountable. I think they feel his energy and they feel his passion and it's contagious. It's when you're around John you can't help but feel that.”
The Browns’ uncertainty at quarterback was addressed early in the interview process with all candidates, Pettine said. DeFilippo, who calls himself a “make-it-work type of guy,” said he didn’t view it as a deterrent and views his offense as flexible enough to maximize the quarterback’s strengths and skill set.
“I'm thrilled to be working with all the quarterbacks that are here and going to be here,” DeFilippo said. “We're going to treat everyone and coach everyone just as hard and just the same.
"The offensive line is really, really impressive just from a physical standpoint. The thing you notice about the Cleveland Browns offensive line is how athletic they are. The way they can change the line of scrimmage, they have a great mixture of strength and athleticism, which is hard to find on the offensive line. Young backs are really good and explosive and their receivers are good. I'm looking forward to just working with them and getting to know them better."
DeFilippo grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and starred as a quarterback at James Madison. Even before he led the Dukes to a conference championship in 1999, he served as a coaching intern with the Carolina Panthers (1997) and Indianapolis Colts (1998).
DeFilippo’s path to the NFL began in the college ranks, as he coached quarterbacks at Fordham (2000) before holding down a graduate assistant position at Notre Dame from 2001-2002. After two seasons as the quarterbacks coach at Columbia, where he guided Jeff Otis to a number of program records, DeFilippo returned to the NFL as a quality control assistant with the New York Giants (2005-06).
“I couldn't be happier to work with Coach Pettine and to work with such a great organization like the Cleveland Browns,” DeFilippo said. “It's an honor that the Haslam family and Ray Farmer and Coach Pettine have given me this job. I'm very humbled. I can't wait to get to work.”