The Vikings will have a new special teams coordinator in 2019 as Mike Priefer is going home.
Priefer, the team’s special teams coordinator for the past eight seasons, will not return to the team in 2019. Instead, he will become special teams coordinator for the Cleveland Browns under new coach Freddie Kitchens.
Priefer’s deal with the Vikings expired after the 2018 season. He was offered a contract with the Vikings, but instead chose his native Cleveland.
Priefer was born April 21, 1966 in Parma, Ohio, just west of Cleveland. His father, Chuck, coached football, baseball and basketball at Parma’s Padua High School from 1963 until 1976.
Chuck Priefer was head football coach from 1972 until leaving for the college ranks as an assistant and Miami of Ohio in 1977. He moved on to North Carolina from 1978 to ’83 before the Packers hired him as their special teams coach in 1984, Mike’s senior year in high school.
After working as a graduate assistant at Navy, Mike Priefer’s first paid position was in Northeast Ohio as Youngstown State’s assistant in charge of offensive tackles, tight ends and special teams.
Mike Priefer, who had been with the team since the 2011 season, leaves after a tumultuous season for the Vikings’ special teams units.
The team released fifth-round pick Daniel Carlson after the rookie missed three field goals in a Week 2 tie against the Packers. The Vikings signed veteran Dan Bailey, who only missed one extra point but missed seven field goals (including one that was blocked against the Seahawks on Dec. 10). The team finished the year last in the league in field goal percentage, making just 68.8 percent of its attempts and hitting only five of its 12 attempts from 40-49 yards.
The Vikings also had kickoff coverage issues that began in the preseason and continued through the regular season. They ranked 20th in the league in kickoff coverage, though they finished the year fifth in punt coverage.
During Priefer’s tenure, the Vikings had some of the league’s most explosive return units with Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Their issues with kickers and punters proved to be an ongoing problem, however, with former Pro Bowler Blair Walsh famously missing a 27-yard field goal in the team’s wild-card playoff loss to the Seahawks after the 2015 season. Walsh’s ongoing struggles led to his release midway through the 2016 season, when he missed four field goals and four extra points through nine games.
Priefer, 52, coached Vikings special teams from 2011-18. He was head coach for a game in 2016, a 17-15 Vikings loss to Dallas, when coach Mike Zimmer had eye surgery.
Before coming to Minnesota he was special teams coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs (2006-08) and Denver Broncos (2009-10).
He sat out the first three games of the 2014 season as a suspension and had sensitivity training for making homophobic remarks at a special teams meeting the previous season.