Kamu Grugier-Hill will never forget his very first day with the Eagles for one reason: the music was really loud.
As the rookie linebacker walked through the NovaCare Complex on his first day after being claimed by the Eagles in early September, he remembers hearing loud rap music "pounding" out of the special teams meeting room.
"I was like, ‘How is this happening?" he said. "There are other meetings going on."
When Grugier-Hill walked into the meeting, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp was on stage, dancing to the song and repeatedly yelling, "Let's go!" Over the next few months, Grugier-Hill has learned this to be a ritual of sorts, something Fipp does to amp up the energy before his always-entertaining meetings.
How loud is the music?
"Like really, really loud," Trey Burton said.
There are plenty of reasons why Eagles players seem to love Dave Fipp. There are plenty of reasons he's become arguably the best special teams coach in the entire league. And there are plenty of reasons people in the building think he would make an excellent NFL head coach.
But the music always seems to come up.
"He has no idea what the words are," Grugier-Hill said with a smile. "He's excited to coach us and he's excited about his job and it makes everything fun."
As NFL head coaching jobs begin to open up more and more this offseason, there will be plenty of popular names – the ones you already know. When asked about members of his staff who could move on and garner interest as head coaches, Doug Pederson this week mentioned defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Frank Reich.
Pederson initially overlooked the special teams coordinator, something that has happened numerous times by NFL owners over the last few decades.
"I think he is very capable," Pederson said, when asked specifically about Fipp. "Next to myself, he's the next coach on the staff that really is in front of the [entire] team – talking and coordinating meetings and things of that nature. I think that he'd be right for a job or for an opportunity. He's very detailed in his work; he's very thorough in his work; he gets the guys to practice fast. He's another one, as a coach, who keeps things very simplistic for the guys and [allows them] to execute and go out and play the scheme fast and aggressively."
If NFL owners want to look at results, Fipp's have been incredibly impressive. For the last three seasons, since joining the Eagles, his special teams unit has been among the top in the league.
This season, the Eagles lead the NFL in kickoff return average (27.9), kick return touchdowns (2) and punt return average (12.9). They're second in the league in opponent kick return average (19.1) and near the top 10 in opponent punt return average (8.1), even after giving up a 65-yard touchdown on a punt return against Chicago, a blip in an otherwise spectacular season.
While the Eagles have struggled on offense and defense, special teams has been a constant bright spot.
Getting Fipp to talk about himself is kind of like trying to return a kickoff or a punt against his unit – there's not much ground to be gained. The 42-year-old declined an interview request from CSNPhilly.com for this story. Luckily, his players were more than willing to speak on his behalf.
"I definitely think he should be a head coach," said safety and special teamer Chris Maragos, who said something similar a few weeks ago when he signed a three-year extension. "The guys is just unbelievable in everything that he does, with his mindset, he's a leader of men, he's got a great feel for the game, he's just a great dude. He connects with everybody in the locker room. Everybody, offense, defense, it doesn't matter what position it is. He's just got a really unique way of motivating guys and getting the most out of them."
"Yeah, just everything about him is good," Darren Sproles said. "He can definitely be a head coach."
"I think, bare minimum, he should get interviews," Burton said. "Bare minimum. I think he would be a really good head coach just for the fact that he gets to be around offense and defense, not just one side of the ball."
Maragos said Fipp's motivation really shows up when things get bad. In blowout losses, when some coaches might opt to just have their players get through the game and back onto the bus, Fipp uses them as coaching moments. Earlier this season in Cincinnati was a prime example. "He's building men, really," he said. "That's what he's doing."
There are certain advantages a special teams coordinator should theoretically have when being considered for a head coaching job. Earlier this season, former Eagles special teams coordinator and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh outlined them during a conference call with Philly reporters:
"No. 1, the special teams coach has got to be a really organized guy," Harbaugh started. "He's got to understand the roster. And he's usually a really good evaluator because he evaluates all different positions as a special teams coordinator and he's usually heavily involved in the draft. He's also a developer of young players because he's developing those young guys, the (Baltimore linebacker) Zach Orr type guys, who become starters in time. And the other thing, he's able to relate to all the different players on the team because he's dealing with all different types of players. He's not with one position all the time. He deals with the whole team, every single day. He's in front of the team every single day.
"And those are all skills that are really in the same job description as the head coach."
Still, teams haven't been willing to give special teams coordinators a shot. Fipp is among those who might change that. By name, Harbaugh mentioned Fipp, along with Kansas City's Dave Toub and Baltimore's Jerry Rosburg as top-tier special teams candidates.
"I'm shocked that more guys haven't had an opportunity," Harbaugh said.
While Harbaugh has become the poster child for those who want special teams coordinators to be considered for head coaching jobs, even he had one season as the Eagles' defensive backs coach before the Ravens hired him, which brings us back to Fipp.
Since he's been in the NFL, he's had only special teams jobs, but has a history as a defensive guy from his time at the collegiate level as a coach and dating back to his college playing days as a safety at Arizona.
"And one thing that's really cool with him, something that I've seen personally, is that whenever special teams meetings are over, he's not just going and sitting upstairs on his computer or watching film," Burton said.
According to Burton, Fipp spends time in meetings for other position groups. On Saturdays before games, Burton has spotted Fipp going over tape with the defensive backs coach and Burton has even seen Fipp in some offensive meetings on days before games. "He's not just strictly special teams," Burton said.
That will likely be a hard sell for prospective employers. Right or wrong, there seems to be a stigma surrounding special teams coaches that's hard to shake. Burton thinks teams prefer to hire "flashy" candidates.
So maybe Fipp will be in Philly for several more seasons, which would certainly be OK with his players.
"You know what's crazy?" Grugier-Hill said. "I've spent one season with him and I've spent multiple seasons with other coaches in my life and he's already probably one of the best -- if not the best -- coach I've ever played for."
And he probably knew it from the time he heard the bass bumping through the hallway.