Report: Mike Priefer Will Not Return As Vikings Special Teams Coach
UPDATE: 2:35 pm 1/11/19
Tom Pelissero is reporting that Priefer is leaving the Vikings for a rule with the Cleveland Browns as their special teams coordinator.
Priefer shared a statement with Pelissero, saying he was offered an opportunity to re-sign with the Vikings, and he declined to go work with the Browns and their new head coach Freddie Kitchens. You can read the statement from Priefer below.
While Vikings fans might not have expected to hear the team was willing to offer Priefer an extension after his squad came in dead last in field goals in 2018, that is apparently the case.
After Vikings kickers missed 10 field goals in the 2018 season, it is being reported that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will not be back with the team for the 2019 season. Star Tribune sports writer Mark Craig tweeted the news on Friday afternoon, saying Zimmer shared the information directly with him.
Priefer has been with the Vikings over the last 8 seasons as the special teams coordinator.
The 2018 season was a particularly questionable one for the special teams coach, having drafted and then released 2018 NFL Draft 5th round pick Daniel Carlson after he missed 3 field goals in the week 2 game against the Packers. The Vikings went on to sign Dan Bailey, who also had struggles through the season. In all, Vikings kickers missed 10 of 32 attempted field goals through the 2018 season, which amounts to a league-worst 68.8% of their tries.
Along with the league-worst statistics in 2018, there are a number of other kicking and punting struggles the team has seen through his tenure with the team, most notably Blair Walsh going from being a Pro Bowl kicker to being released by the team. Even with these struggles, the team has enjoyed years of strong return games that included names like Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson being a consistent threat to score a touchdown on a return.
During Priefer's time with the team, he was suspended three games in 2014 for homophobic comments former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said the coach made. Kluwe threatened to sue the team after being released, citing wrongful termination, but the team and Kluwe settled out of court.
The change at special teams coach comes at a time when the team is trying to find itself after a "Super Bowl or Bust" season fell short of making the playoffs. Special teams played a pivotal role in some of the losses (and tie) on the 2018 schedule, and looking a different direction for the special teams coordinator will give the team the chance to address one of the places the team needs to fix going into 2019.