Cover the NFL for any period of time and you'll quickly learn how the coaching world in this league is a tree and most all of those branches on that tree are connected in some way. As the coaches work their way up the rankings they bounce around a lot and learn a little from each stop along the way.
So hearing that Zimmer and Tony Sparano had a history and DeFilippo and Sparano had a history, it all makes sense.
Today we got a little glimpse into that history between DeFilippo and the late Tony Sparano and learned how Sparano's influence impacted Flip in a deep way to shape who he is today.
The year was 2014 and the two coaches were part of Dennis Allen's staff in Oakland with the Raiders. Tony was serving as the teams offensive line coach and John was on board as the quarterbacks coach. The Raiders started that season 0-4 and Allen was fired. Sparano was promoted to Interim Head Coach but took over a very ugly situation with a young, inexperienced and undisciplined team. Oakland would lose their next six games under Sparano.
"That year in Oakland it was Derek Carr's rookie year and we started off the season 0-10," DeFilippo recanted today in Minnesota. "Tony was always really steady...he was the same guy everyday."
Week 12 of that season put Tony's winless Raiders on a short week to prepare for the division leading Kansas City Chiefs who were carrying a five game winning streak with them into the Coliseum that night.
This was the night that Tony's steadiness tipped the scales.
Derek Carr started to figure it out a little bit and moved the ball up and down the field. Current Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray ran for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day and the Raiders defense forced turnovers and held the Chiefs to below their season average in points.
The Raiders won that game on the national stage 24-20 and Sparano was at the beginning of an Oakland turnaround in which the team would go from winless to winning 3 of their final 6 games.
It's a moment that DeFilippo will never forget.
"I just remember being so happy for coach that night," DeFilippo continued. "Not only was it a nationally televised game against Kansas City, thursday night game. Coach had inherited a really really tough situation and handled it as well as probably anybody out there in the National Football League could have handled it. I just remember being so happy not only for our football team but for him because, he had stayed so consistent to what he believes in that it finally paid off for him."
There's a video on NFL.com that shows Tony's post-game locker room speech to his team after this game. In that video (watch it HERE) you can see examples of everything that we've learned about Tony this week on full display. You see his simple, yet focused mindset on display. You see the genuine nature in which he is holding all of those players on each of his words. You can feel the no-nonsense mentality that finally had paid off. You can sense the true joy felt by the players who had invested and followed Sparano's ways. You can see a giddy 36 year old John DeFilippo soaking it all up in the background. And maybe most importantly, you can see the love and affection that his players have for him as LT Donald Penn jumps in at the end to present the coach with a game ball.
It's all right there in that 1:22 video, everything that players and coaches around the league have explained to us, put together in one minute long encounter that we all overlooked at the time.