John DeFilippo takes helm of New Orleans Breakers
John DeFilippo is eager to lead the New Orleans Breakers in his first opportunity as a pro football head coach.
By Eric Williams
FOX Sports Football Reporter
A longtime offensive coordinator in the NFL, John DeFilippo sought an opportunity to see what it’s like to run his own team.
He found it in the USFL, where the former passing game coordinator of the Chicago Bears takes over head coaching duties of the New Orleans Breakers for the departed Larry Fedora.
[Everything to know about Breakers 2023 schedule]
"Any time you have an opportunity to be a head coach in professional football, you can’t just say no," said the 44-year-old DeFilippo. "You have to listen, especially if that’s your goal, to lead a group of men. I watched the product on the field when I was in Chicago with the Bears, and I was like ‘Wow.’ The football was good. I wanted the opportunity to be a head football coach. I interviewed for some jobs in the NFL. I was very close, but I didn’t get them. But the opportunity here was very good, so I wanted to make sure that I entertained it and went in with an open mind."
Fedora did not leave the cupboard bare on a successful team that finished 6-4 during the regular season and reached the playoffs. However, DeFilippo will have to start over at quarterback, with Kyle Sloter not returning.
Backup quarterback Zach Smith does return for a second season with the Breakers. He’ll compete with Aqeel Glass from Alabama A&M and Davis Cheek from Elon for the starting job.
"Those are all three young guys who can play, and I don’t think we’re done there yet," DeFilippo said. "My view of the quarterback position has changed over the years. I used to want the guy who could be the pocket passer, stand back there and throw the football. But the game has changed, and if you don’t evolve with the game, then it leaves you in the dust. I would have a hard time signing a quarterback at any level that can’t pick you up a first down with his feet."
DeFilippo said he’ll lean on a more seasoned coaching staff that has extensive experience in spring leagues like the USFL.
"It was a lot of fun to put together a staff," he said. "I went the route of guys that are a little bit older. There are four guys of the six full-time guys that are on our staff that have had experience in spring football leagues — whether that be the old USFL, the XFL, the spring league — they have had experience in these leagues, where there’s no job too big or too small for people. And that’s going to help guide me through some of the things that may come to my plate as a first-time head coach."
DeFilippo will face another newcomer to the league in new Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Ray Horton when the Breakers host the Maulers in Birmingham on April 16, the season opener for both teams. The Breakers and the Stallions will both plays their home games in Birmingham this season.
But DeFilippo doesn’t care where his team plays.
"I think it’s really good for different parts of the country to see our brand," he said. "But I’m kind of the mantra of ‘Anytime, anyplace, anywhere’ I don’t care where we play. I don’t care when we play. Just tell us when to show up and we’ll be there."
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
More on the USFL schedule release from FOX Sports:
- The full week-by-week 2023 USFL schedule
- Michigan Panthers schedule | Interview with coach Mike Nolan
- Pittsburgh Maulers schedule | Interview with coach Ray Horton
- Birmingham Stallions schedule | Interview with coach Skip Holtz
- New Jersey Generals schedule | Interview with coach Mike Riley
- Memphis Showboards schedule | Interview with coach Todd Haley
- Philadelphia Stars schedule | Interview with coach Bart Andrus
- New Orleans Breakers schedule | Interview with coach John DeFilippo
- Houston Gamblers schedule
- A conversation with USFL VP of Operations Daryl Johnston
- 2023 USFL schedule: Best early games, title odds and more!