For the second time this offseason, the Browns have decided to fire one of their coordinators. Six weeks Joe Woods, the Browns made a surprising move on Tuesday by firing special teams coordinator Mike Priefer.
One reason the move was surprising is because at this point in the offseason, you don't usually see a coordinator get fired unless they were let go by a new head coach, but that definitely wasn't the case in Cleveland, where Kevin Stefanski just finished his third season with the team.
According to NFL.com, the Browns already have their eye on Priefer's replacement with the team requesting to interview with Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, who spent four seasons with the Browns as a player (2009-12). ESPN is reporting the Browns have also requested permission to interview Giants assistant special team coordinator Anthony Blevins.
As for Priefer, he had been with the Browns since 2019 when Freddie Kitchens hired him as special teams coordinator and Stefanski decided to keep him on after Kitchens was fired.
"I appreciate everything Prief has done for this team in his three seasons as my special teams coordinator, but I have decided to move in another direction in the best interest of our organization," Stefanski said in a statement.
One very notable thing about Priefer's tenure in Cleveland is that he served as the head coach for the Browns' only playoff win of the past 28 years. After the Browns' earned a playoff berth in 2020, Stefanski tested positive for COVID just before the team's wild-card game against the Steelers. With Stefanski forced to watch the game at home, the head coaching duties were given to Priefer, who led the Browns to a 48-37 win over Pittsburgh, which marked the Browns' first playoff win since 1994.
The win was so big that Priefer got his own display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame following the victory.
"I know this city will forever be grateful for the job he did as acting head coach in our AFC wild card win and for all his contributions while leading the Browns special team's units for the last four seasons," Stefanski said. "We wish Prief the best with his next opportunity."
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Priefer is from Cleveland and at the end of the 2022 season, it sounded like he planned on sticking around as long as the Browns would have him.
"I don't plan on going anywhere else," Priefer said in January, via Cleveland.com. "I'm from Cleveland. I want to help Cleveland win a world championship. That's why I am here, and that is my focus."
As for why Priefer was fired, Stefanski might have felt that a move was necessary after watching the Browns' struggle in the kicking game for most of the season. Rookie kicker Cade York hit just 75% of his field goals (24 of 32) in 2022, which was the third-worst percentage in the NFL for any kicker who had more than 10 attempts. After starting the season 8-for-8, York was just 16 of 24 on field goals over Cleveland's final 13 games.
The problem for Priefer wasn't necessarily that York was missing, it was how he was missing. Three of his kicks were blocked, which definitely isn't a great look if you're in charge of the special teams.
Priefer has been in the NFL since 2002 when the Jaguars hired him as an assistant special teams coach and with 22 seasons of experience under his belt, it won't be surprising if the 56-year-old lands a job somewhere else before the start of the 2023 season.