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John DeFilippo: From Radnor To The Eagles

Posted Feb 7, 2017

Before the team’s first preseason game against Tampa Bay at Lincoln Financial Field, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo pulled out his phone, took a few pictures of the stadium, and quickly sent them off to his parents.

For a moment, he let himself enjoy the atmosphere and reflected on his journey to the NFL. Sometimes, he still can’t comprehend how the teenager who moved to Philadelphia ascended the coaching ladder and ended up back where it all began.

"Growing up watching this team and coming to games and those things, I walk into work every day and sometimes just can’t believe I’m here," DeFilippo said. "Who would have thought this when I was at Radnor High School?"

DeFilippo moved to Delaware County with his family as a rising high school sophomore. His father, Gene, had accepted a job as the athletic director at Villanova University, just a stone’s throw down the road.

Adjusting to his new town and school, DeFilippo immediately turned to football, the sport he’d been playing for as long as he could remember. It had always been a constant for him. He quarterbacked the Raiders’ varsity team and then went on to play collegiately at James Madison University.

DeFilippo wanted his future to be in coaching from the time he began at Radnor High School. His ultimate dream was to work in the pros, an aspiration he understood would take hard work and dedication to achieve.

"My dad was a coach when I was younger and then got into athletic administration as I got older. It’s something I knew I always wanted to do," he explained. "My whole life, I’ve never known a fall without football and it’s definitely something I knew when I was done playing I wanted to get involved with the game."

He started off slow, completing coaching internships with both the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. With his foot in the door, DeFilippo earned his first full-time coaching gig at Fordham University in 2000. As a former quarterback himself, working with the signal-callers there was a natural fit.

DeFilippo rose through the ranks, landing his first NFL job as an offensive quality control coach for the New York Giants under then-head coach Tom Coughlin in 2005. Two short seasons later, he was in California as the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders.

Yet, some of DeFilippo’s best coaching experiences wouldn’t come until his second stint as the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach. In 2012, he helped Carson Palmer throw for the second-most yards (4,018) in franchise history, and then in 2014, he was instrumental in the development of second-round draft pick, Derek Carr. That season, Carr led all rookie quarterbacks in completions (348), passing yards (3,270), and passing touchdowns (21).

With the opportunity to develop another young quarterback in Carson Wentz, the second-overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, DeFilippo has been able to draw on his previous experiences. Sometimes with young players, the coaching style requires a slightly different approach.

"You’ve got to go into it knowing it’s going to take time and you have to be patient," he said. "You’ve got to know when to push down the gas pedal and know when to take off a little bit and know that at the end of the day, if you keep grinding on them about the little things, the little things turn into them doing the big things, and that’s when they’re ready to start playing in games."

It’s clear DeFilippo and the Eagles believed Wentz was adequately prepared to do just that, as they made the decision to trade Sam Bradford and name the rookie a starter eight days before the 2016 regular season opener.

They saw Wentz coming in at 5 a.m. to study film, observed how he interacted with his teammates, and watched how he prepared on and off the field. Wentz did, and continues to do, all the little things.

"He’s special physically because he’s 6-5, 240 pounds. He’s lean. He’s athletic. He has quick feet for a big man," DeFilippo said. "He can drive the football to the perimeter. Then he’s very, very talented and unique from a mental standpoint that he can take things from the meeting room to the field just as good as any quarterback I’ve ever been around."

Wentz got his first taste of NFL success with DeFilippo’s guidance. He set an NFL rookie record with 379 completions and also set Eagles rookie records in pass attempts (607), passing yards (3,782), completion percentage (62.4), passing touchdowns (16), and passer rating (79.3).

Add in the fact that Wentz was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Month in September and earned NFL Rookie of the Week honors three times throughout the year, it is safe to say he had a strong campaign. DeFilippo certainly did his job in preparing the team’s franchise player.

The coach’s work in Philadelphia didn’t go unnoticed by other teams in the league. DeFilippo was reportedly a candidate for the Jets’ offensive coordinator position at the start of the offseason.

From a Radnor High School quarterback to an assistant coach for the Eagles, DeFilippo is soaking in every minute of living out his dream in Philadelphia and is ready to ring in a new era of football in the City of Brotherly Love.

"We have a bright, young quarterback that we think has a chance to be a very good player. We have good players around him. We have a good defense. Our kicking game is solid," he said. "I think there are a lot of reasons to be excited to be in this building right now."

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