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John DeFilippo and "Play Like a Brown"

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Coach Flip was my top candidate for the Browns offensive coordinator position. His experience in a variety of systems and with developing quarterbacks are obvious pluses, but I wanted to take the time to point out how his character, personality, and approach to coaching make him an especially good fit for Mike Pettine's coaching staff.

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

During his introductory press conference, Mike Pettine stated his philosophy regarding building a team and his core values:

"This team is going to be built on toughness. Most people think of toughness in just the physical sense. I think as important or more important is the mental toughness, is the ability to think through things when they aren’t going well, to hang tough when things go bad, that the heads don’t drop and that [players don’t say to themselves that we're the] 'same old Browns', and teams talk themselves into losing."


He also repeatedly responded to questions of how he would improve the team or how he would address past problems by stating, simply "I wasn't here last year." He was trying to hammer home the point that these are not the "same old Browns" and that coaches, players, the media, staff members, and fans shouldn't restrict their expectations to the failures of the past.

Over time, it became clear that these were not (just) clever attempts to survive the shark-infested waters that are Cleveland Browns media coverage but (also) glimpses into Pettine's coaching philosophy.

In another early media appearance, he further expressed his view of the importance of players not only buying in to the team but becoming personally and emotionally invested:

"When it comes down to crunch time, you want those players -- they’re getting paid a lot of money, so what’s going to make them take that one extra step to be great? If it’s a shared love for the game or it’s how they feel about their teammates, the culture that’s been built -- Did they care about each other? Football players that are independently almost their own corporations, millionaires. When they can become selfless because of the atmosphere that you’ve built, then you’ve done something."


Mike Pettine sought to promote a culture of winning NFL football and saw that this could only be built upon the foundation of a winner's mentality.

"Play Like a Brown" is his mantra.

Coach Pettine and his long time assistant Jim O'Neil believed in making concerted efforts to challenge and motivate their players to play at the top of their game at all times as well as to foster healthy competition and camaraderie among teammates.

  • "Caught on tape!"
  • Handing out dog collars where players can show off how many dog bones they've earned for making impact plays.
  • "Next man up."
  • "Prepare like a starter."

Pettine also believed in finding or bringing in veteran leaders who shared these values and encouraging them to carry his message to the team. To that note, Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby were signed in free agency and immediately became not only bearers of the message but living examples of what "Play like a Brown" meant.



So, how does John DeFilippo fit into this?



In his introductory press conference, Coach Flip echoed similar sentiments when discussing developing a quarterback:

"Well, I think the first thing you need to do is get a personal connection and see how they learn. I spent a lot of time on developing on how guys learn. Some guys are visual guys, some guys need to be coddled a little bit, some guys need to be ripped. So I think you find that connection on how a guy learns best and you go with that route."

"Whoever's in that room is going to be coached hard, held accountable, and [will be] expected to do the things that we expect out of the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks."

"I know this: whoever is in our quarterback room is going to have a clean slate..."


These sound similar to Pettine's statements of:

  • "If the guy has it in him, we're going to get it out of him."
  • "We’re looking forward to getting with [the player] and seeing what makes him tick and seeing if we can get him going."


As for Coach Flip's character, personality, and approach to coaching, Lane Adkins from the Orange and Brown Report had this to say:

What you get with DeFilippo after discussing him with numerous folks in and around the game -

- Excellent communicator

- Listens to players

- Always teaching

- Challenges players

- Adaptable scheme

- No nonsense

- Open and honest

- Accountability

- Will get upset with a player, doesn't hold issue against them


Okay, this sounds like John DeFilippo may mesh well with Mike Pettine and his vision for the team, but how do we really know? Well, we don't, but Pettine claims that they will and points to their prior experience working together as evidence:

"...I think it's important that you have that sense of that chemistry, that cohesion -- and when you know you already have it because you've been around somebody, that can't help but be a plus."


Coach Flip is questioned about how much they really worked together, considering that Pettine was the defensive coordinator while he was an offensive assistant. He responds:

"Mike and I gravitated towards each other from the start. We come from very similar backgrounds, we come from coaching dads, we both work hard and grind; so we have a lot of the same character, moral values, those type things so I think when you're that like-minded I think you just tend to gravitate towards that person."


Okay, again, that sounds good but how do we really know? Once again, we can't be sure how much familiarity they have with each other or how well they'll work together, but both men do seem to share similar football values and perspectives on coaching.

One thing Pettine can assure us of is that they'll have plenty of time working together. He implies that he will have a hand in playcalling on offense and that he will have a much bigger role on offense in general:

"I'm just really flipping sides as far as spending time. When you're a head coach, you're a head coach of the entire team and to me you can't have that excuse of 'Hey, well that's really not my area of expertise, I've been a defensive guy...'"



To get your own sense of what Coach Flip is like on the job, here's a video of him talking about the Raiders 2014 quarterbacks and here's one of him working with quarterback prospects at the 2013 Senior Bowl practices.



Now don't get me wrong here...

I'm not saying that every coaching staff or every successful working relationship has to have people seeing eye-to-eye and being on the same page. People can thrive with others who are very different than them so long as both parties are committed to making it work.

My contention is simply that if that's the kind of cohesive, "Play Like a Brown" atmosphere you're trying to foster among your players, it's pretty important to set a similar example on your coaching staff.

How do you get your players to "Play Like a Brown"?

Coach Like a Brown.