At this point in the offseason cycle, coaching changes — at least from a firing perspective — are rare.
The Cleveland Browns made the rare move Tuesday, firing special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who spent the last four seasons under head coach Kevin Stefanski overseeing the special teams units.
“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,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement announcing the coaching change. “I know this city will forever be grateful for the job he did as acting head coach in our AFC Wildcard win and for all his contributions while leading the Browns special team’s units for the last four seasons. We wish Prief the best with his next opportunity.”
Prior to spending the last four seasons in Cleveland as the Browns’ special teams coordinator, Priefer was the special teams coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-18. He also had stops in Denver (2009-10) and Kansas City (2006-08) as the special teams coordinator, and served as the assistant special teams coach with the New York Giants (2003-05) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2002) earlier in this career.
During his time in Minnesota, Priefer was named the Special Teams Coach of the Year in 2012. In Cleveland, he oversaw the Browns’ Wild Card Round win over the Steelers on January 10, 2021, after Stefanski tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week, forcing him to miss the game.
Priefer is the son of former longtime NFL special teams coordinator Chuck Priefer, who coached the Green Bay Packers in 1984-85, the then-San Diego Chargers from 1992-96 and the Detroit Lions from 1997-2006.
Following the decision to fire Priefer, the Browns requested permission from the Indianapolis Colts to interview current special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Ventrone, a Pittsburgh native, previously played for the Browns from 2009-2012 as part of a 10-year career in the NFL. With the Colts, Ventrone has had one of the NFL’s top special teams units the last few seasons, finishing No. 8 overall in special teams rankings in 2022, according to rickgosselin.com’s special teams rankings.