John DeFilippo called it a lifestyle. In the Browns offensive coordinator’s mind, anything outside of embracing the quarterback position with that sort of mentality will come back to bite you.
When the Browns doors officially open for OTAs in April, the quarterback room will host signal-callers on both ends of the spectrum. On one side is 35-year-old “consummate professional” Josh McCown, who is entering his 13th NFL season, and on the other side are two fresh-faced quarterbacks entering their second season, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw, who have combined to start three games and are still waiting for their first NFL touchdown pass.
DeFilippo, who spoke candidly about how he envisions the Browns offense looking in 2015 during a Tuesday interview with Cleveland Browns Daily, knows what he’s getting in a veteran like McCown. With Manziel and Shaw, he’ll tap into what’s helped him rise the ranks from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator at the age of 36: a keen understanding of how young quarterbacks adapt to all the complexities of running an NFL offense.
“You take out all that gray area you can for that quarterback,” said DeFilippo, who worked closely with the promising Derek Carr last year in Oakland. “He’s playing catch-up with the speed, playing catch-up in the huddle with a bunch of veterans, he’s playing catch-up in a lot of different areas. The last thing you want to do is him playing catch-up to you not teaching him well.”
McCown, in multiple interviews, has stressed he chose to play for the Browns for reasons that go beyond competing for a starting job. At 35, McCown said he not only wants to surround himself with coaches he knows and trusts but also serve as a mentor to Manziel, Shaw and whomever else is added to the Browns quarterbacks room.
DeFilippo noted that aspect of McCown’s presence but expressed confidence in the veteran’s ability to rebound from a 2014 campaign with Tampa Bay that McCown, himself, said “wasn’t good enough.”
“I think when you see situations where Josh has had a system where he hasn’t had to win the game by himself, I think you’ve seen him have success,” DeFilippo said, perhaps alluding to McCown’s productive stretch of starts with Chicago in 2013. “That was part of our selling point to him, ‘Hey, you aren’t going to have to do this thing all by yourself, buddy.’ We are going to be able to run the football here. We have a fantastic offensive line.
“Josh is going to make great decisions, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. And he’s going to be able to protect the football and move our offense down the field.”
Given the chance to lead Cleveland’s offense during a pivotal final stretch of his rookie season, Manziel struggled to do both before he injured his hamstring against Carolina and was relegated to the locker room in the season finale.
The path toward Manziel’s redemption, DeFilippo said, starts with “a plan.”
“You need to lay it out. They don’t know anything when they walk in the building. It’s like a freshman in college. You have to map out their week for them,” said DeFilippo, who interviewed Manziel during last year’s draft preparations but has had limited contact with him since he was hired.
“I know from a protection standpoint and a route structure standpoint, they were very limited in what they did at Texas A&M. Does that mean what they did was bad? Not in any so way. They had a ton of success, but it’s very different than what a quarterback is asked to do at an NFL level.”
In a soundbite that made national headlines, DeFilippo said the NFL’s great quarterbacks have an “obsession” for the position. With help from McCown, DeFilippo hopes to ingrain that sort of mindset with a new cast of young quarterbacks.
“It’s not just a job. It’s all-consuming. You need to sleep, eat, do everything fast, and just think football all the time,” DeFilippo said. “You watch the Peyton Manning’s, the Drew Brees’, the Aaron Rodgers’ – those guys are obsessed with football. When I talk about quarterback lifestyle in our first meeting, those are the things I’m going to be talking about with those guys.”