‘Coach Flip’ Returns in Purple
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The so-called Vikings-Eagles "rivalry" might be the first in sports that is completely rooted in social media.
Take Twitter off the table and the "whining" Minnesota fans lamenting their lot in life against the "obnoxious" Philly faithful and any perceived angst simply does not exist.
That was evident at the NovaCare Complex this week as everyone from Doug Pederson, Jim Schwartz, Mike Groh and Carson Wentz on down spoke of the respect they had for Mike Zimmer and the Vikings organization.
Even the ever-ebullient Brandon Graham didn't pile on when talking about the overmatched Minnesota offensive line, which is the Achilles heel of an otherwise very talented bunch.
"Good teams in this league usually fix their issues," Graham told 973espn.com on Wednesday, ignoring the low-hanging fruit of just how many pressures the Minny O-Line has allowed.
This isn't Dallas, the NY Giants or Washington for the people at One NovaCare Way and it sure isn't Green Bay or Chicago for those dressed in purple.
In fact, after 60 minutes are finished on Sunday the Eagles will quickly begin worrying about a short week and a real rival while the Vikings will be back pondering how to stop Aaron Rodgers.
Heck, if you didn't know any better you might think that the Eagles actually liked their peers from Minnesota. They certainly like one a whole heck of a lot: John DeFilippo, the former Eagles' quarterbacks coach who now runs the offense for the Vikings.
"He was great," Wentz said of his first position coach. "A lot of respect for him both as a person and as a coach. I thought he helped me and really all of us get better. I loved the way he saw the game. we were just always in great communication. So obviously losing him this year we definitely miss working with him but we feel good with the guys we have now. so a lot of respect for him. It will be fun playing against him."
The Eagles were so enamored with "Coach Flip" that they blocked him from becoming the Jets OC before last season and would have promoted him to the same job in Philadelphia after Frank Reich left for Indianapolis.
DeFilippo felt it was important, however, to find a place where he could call plays in order to reach his ultimate goal of being a head coach in this league.
"It will be [emotional]," DeFilippo admitted this week when asked about returning. "And not just because of the Eagles thing. A lot of people don’t know that I went to high school in Philadelphia. My dad was the athletic director at Villanova. I spent some of my formable years in Philly and was kind of in the middle of the Philly sports scene with my dad.
"I went to high school there with my high school buddies and all of that. But once the game starts, it is going to be like any other game. I have nothing but the utmost respect for everyone in that building. Just like this building, there are some really phenomenal people, coaches, players, ownership, personnel in that building. It is a first class place, no doubt."
Josh Andrews spent his spring and summer with the Vikings before returning to the Eagles practice squad a few weeks ago and made it clear that the respect is a two-way street.
"He's just a great guy and a better coach," Andrews said when discussing DeFilippo. "They have a lot of talent over there and will get things figured out. Sometimes it just takes a little time."
The Eagles are counting on it taking at least one more Sunday but win or lose, don't expect any animosity to exist past the parking lots and the stands.
In fact, this is more like Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas meeting at midcourt for a kiss before doing battle.
"[Doug Pederson] is great. He is great," Defilippo said. "There is two things that Coach does that I really learned from him. Number one, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Be aggressive. He is an aggressive guy. He is an aggressive play caller.
"Number three, he really trusts his assistant coaches. He really trusts his assistant coaches. If he gave you a job to do, he would let you do your job. He trusted you to do your job. If you were doing your job, he would let you run with it and take something and make it better. That was my goal every day. To try to get the quarterbacks of the Philadelphia Eagles, number one, two and three to get better each day. He trusted me to do that and gave me a lot of leeway and a lot of room to do that. I thanked him for that when I left. Those three things I learned from Coach. I think he does a fantastic job. Not only is he a great coach, he is even a better person. I really like Coach P."
973espn.com Prediction: Eagles 33, Vikings 17
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen