Shortly after the news broke that the Browns would be hiring Freddie Kitchens as their new head coach, John Dorsey started working on forming a great staff around him. Dorsey and Kitchens have the job of replacing most of the coaching staff after many firings. One of the top focuses was special teams after the Browns’ unit finished dead last in 2018. Their solution to this problem was hiring former Vikings coach, Mike Priefer.
Priefer was the special teams coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings for eight seasons. His contract came to an end with them and rather than resigning, he decided to start fresh with the Browns. Last year, his special teams unit ranked 20th in the NFL. That’s not great, but it’s an improvement. To break it down further, the Vikings were first in field goals made, 10th in punts inside the 20, 12th in extra point percentage, 13th in the NFL in average kick return yards, 21st in net punt yards, and 28th in punt return yards. He also comes here with 17 years of NFL coaching experience, including stints with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs as special teams coordinator.
Aside from special teams coordinator, Priefer also brings along some experience as head coach. In 2016, Priefer took over as interim head coach for one game when Mike Zimmer had to get eye surgery. It isn’t a lot of experience, but the fact that he was chosen as the interim head coach shows he is trusted enough to take on this role.
The event that Priefer may be known best for happened in 2014. He was suspended by the Vikings for three games after making homophobic comments. What he said was extremely wrong, but you can look that up for yourself if you are curious. Along with his suspension, he was put through sensitivity training. This isn’t a great look for the new Browns hire, but it seems he has moved past this incident and the fact that the Vikings still kept him on staff shows their continued belief in him.
The Browns’ special teams unit has been poor for a while now and I am hoping this hire will finally be the key to its turn around. Priefer brings plenty of experience that should be also helpful in support of Kitchens’ first year as a head coach. He is a Cleveland native and I believe he will be important in bringing his hometown team to their first playoff game since 2002.