Mike Priefer

Coaching Notes: McCown, Kitchens, Woods

Whenever Josh McCown decides to hang up his cleats, it sounds like he’ll have an opportunity to pursue a new career path. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Eagles discussed “the idea of [McCown] returning to the team in a coaching role” next season.

Notably, the exit meeting was attended by the 40-year-old quarterback, head coach Doug Pederson, general manager Howie Roseman… and owner Jeffrey Lurie, who rarely makes an appearance at those meetings. It’s uncertain if McCown was offered a definitive coaching gig, and the 40-year-old ultimately couldn’t commit to retirement. At the very least, it sounds like the organization is optimistic about the veteran’s coaching ability.

McCown had retired following the 2018 season and caught on with ESPN as an analyst. However, he later signed with the Eagles following injuries to backups Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler. The 18-year veteran ended up appearing in three games for Philly, and he filled in for Carson Wentz during the team’s playoff loss to the Seahawks.

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the league…

  • Earlier this month, we heard whispers that former Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens could land with the Giants. However, Dan Duggan of The Athletic writes that the coach “isn’t a lock” to land in New York. We learned yesterday that the two sides still hadn’t finalized an agreement. Kitchens worked alongside new Giants head coach Joe Judge during their time at Mississippi State, and there was speculation that the 45-year-old could join the staff as a tight ends coach. The Browns went 6-10 during Kitchens’ lone season as their head coach, and he was canned following the regular season.
  • Before hiring Patrick Graham as their defensive coordinator, the Giants had interest in Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn, reports Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post (via Twitter). While he missed out on the gig, the 47-year-old still interviewed for another role on the Giants coaching staff today. Prior to this stint with New Orleans, the 1994 first-round pick served as the Browns assistant defensive backs coach.
  • Joe Woods is the favorite to become the Browns defensive coordinator, but the 49ers won’t let that happen without a fight. Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune tweets that San Francisco is making a “late push” to retain their defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator. Woods has coached in the NFL since 2004, and he served as the Broncos defensive coordinator between 2017 and 2018.
  • Speaking of the Browns, head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed that three assistants will be sticking around next season (via the team’s website): special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, assistant special teams coach Doug Colman and run game coordinator/running backs coach Stump Mitchell.
  • Vikings receivers coach Drew Petzing won’t be back with the team next season, reports Goessling (via Twitter). Petzing had spent the past six seasons with the organization, spending time with wideouts, running backs, and quarterbacks.

Extra Points: Johnson, Stefanski, Browns

Chad Johnson’s time as a pro football player might not be finished after all. The legendary former NFL receiver will tryout as a kicker with the XFL on Monday, he announced on Twitter. The tryout in Houston is indeed legit, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com confirmed with a source. Johnson is 42 now, and hasn’t appeared in a game since the 2011 season. He’s a huge soccer fan, and has often expressed an interest in kicking. Back during the 2009 preseason when he was still with the Bengals, he converted an extra point and handled a kickoff. Johnson became a six-time Pro Bowler with Cincinnati and was a first-team All-Pro selection three times. One of the best receivers in the league for a long stretch, he finished with 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns. He also briefly played in the CFL a handful of years ago. It still seems like more of a publicity stunt than anything else, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Here’s more from around the football world:

  • The Browns settled on a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, but they’re still searching for a new general manager. One potential candidate is Vikings assistant GM George Paton, but he’s apparently hard to pin down. Paton has been very picky with interviews in recent years, and the Browns still haven’t gotten a firm commitment from him on whether or not he’ll interview, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). It was initially reported that Paton had agreed to interview, but that turned out not to be true. Eagles executive Andrew Berry and Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort are also candidates.
  • Whoever Cleveland selects to be their next GM, Stefanski will have a lot of input in the front office. The rookie head coach “will have a large say in roster decisions,” writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Kay Cabot thinks they wouldn’t want his help hiring the new general manager if he wasn’t going to have a lot of power once they’re hired. Stefanski is still only 37 and last season was his first full one as a coordinator, but the Haslam family clearly has a lot of trust in him.
  • Stefanski still has some staffing decisions to make, even after it appears he settled on Joe Woods to be his new defensive coordinator. He won’t be hiring a new special teams coordinator, as sources told Kay Cabot that he’s going to keep Mike Priefer as a rare holdover from Freddie Kitchens’ staff. Priefer was Minnesota’s special teams coordinator for eight seasons while Stefanski was with the Vikings, so they have a lot of familiarity with one another. Priefer had previously been STC for the Chiefs and Broncos.

Browns Hire Todd Monken, Steve Wilks

The Browns’ coaching staff is officially set. On Monday, the Browns officially announced the hiring of Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator and Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator. In addition to those hires, the club appointed Mike Priefer as special teams coordinator, Stump Mitchell as the running backs coach/run game coordinator, James Campen as offensive line coach/associate head coach, and Ryan Lindley as quarterbacks coach.

Monken has a reputation for savvy play calling, even though Buccaneers’ offense was inconsistent in 2018. The Bucs didn’t consider him as a potential replacement for head coach Dirk Koetter, but other clubs were eager to talk with him. The Bengals, Packers, and Jets all interviewed him for their head coaching vacancies and several clubs showed keen interest in bringing him on as their new OC. Ultimately, Monken chose the Browns, who offer tremendous potential and a potential star quarterback in Baker Mayfield.

Wilks was one-and-done as the Cardinals’ head coach after the team limped to a 3-13 record. His defense did not perform up to par in Arizona, but he built a reputation for himself as a smart defensive mind in Carolina. In his six seasons with the Panthers (five as defensive backs coach, one as DC), the club finished with a top 10 defense five times.

AFC Coaching Notes: Bengals, Browns, Broncos

When the Rams’ postseason run comes to a close, the Bengals are expected to offer quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor their head coaching position. With the expected move, Cincinnati cleaned house on Friday, dismissing the previous staff of Marvin Lewis, including offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, ESPN’s Katherine Terrell writes. Among the other assistants let go include running backs coach Kyle Caskey and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes.

This move, of course, is not unexpected. Most head coaches will bring in their own guys and Taylor — or whoever ends up with the job — is no exception.

A longtime NFL assistant, Lazor began his tenure with the Falcons as an offensive quality control coach in 2003 before moving to the Redskins as an offensive assistant in 2004. After a handful of other jobs, including a stint in the college ranks with Virginia, Lazor landed the offensive coordinator role with the Dolphins in 2014. After serving there two seasons, he joined the Bengals as quarterbacks coach in 2016 and was promoted to offensive coordinator the following season. In two seasons running the show in Cincinnati, Lazor ranked in the bottom 10 in yards and bottom half in points both seasons.

Here’s more from the AFC’s coaching carousel:

  • Sticking in the AFC North, Browns new head coach Freddie Kitchens cleaned house after getting the job. Once person he didn’t let go, however, was Ryan Lindley, who will serve as his quarterbacks coach next season, AZCardinals.com’s Mike Jurecki tweets. Lindley, who played in the NFL from 2012-15 as a quarterback, served as the Browns running backs coach in 2018.
  • Also with the Browns, the team added former Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer as its special teams coordinator, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero [Twitter link]. Priefer filled the same role in Minnesota from 2011-18, but declined to re-sign with the team after his contract expired after this past season. Priefer was born in Cleveland and coached two seasons at nearby Youngstown State in the 1990s.
  • New Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is bringing back special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, News9 in Denver’s Mike Klis tweets. McMahon concluded his 12th season in the NFL this past season, his first as special teams coordinator with the Broncos. He previously held the same position with the Colts, Chiefs and Rams.

Vikings’ Mike Priefer To Be Reinstated

Vikings’ special teams coach Mike Priefer will be reinstated on Monday, September 15th, reports Albert Breer of the NFL Network (via Twitter).

Priefer was suspended in relation to homophobic remarks he made that came to light during the Chris Kluwe lawsuit.

The statement, tweeted by Breer, is as follows:

The Minnesota Vikings will reinstate Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer effective Monday, September 15. The decision by Vikings ownership follows extensive conversations with the independent professional consultants retained to conduct individualized anti-harassment, diversity and sexual orientation training with Coach Priefer. Those consultants have conveyed to the team that Coach Priefer was fully and thoughtfully engaged throughout the process and successfully completed the program. Details within the settlement agreement pertaining to the actions by the team remain confidential.

The team struggled on special teams today against the New England Patriots, as Chandler Jones blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.

Sunday Roundup: Manziel, Marciano, Chiefs

As teams try to improve upon their performances from the first week of preseason games, let’s take a look at some links from around the league:

Chris Kluwe To Sue Vikings, Mike Priefer Suspended

9:30pm: I spoke with Kluwe’s lawyer, Clayton Halunen, over the phone about his client’s situation. He told me the Vikings have not contacted him since they have released their preliminary findings, and that the lawsuit is going to be filed early next week, likely on Wednesday. As to whether Priefer’s three-game suspension is acceptable, Halunen said, “It’s something — but not enough,” noting that the only way for the Vikings to ameliorate the situation is to release the full report and give the full $1MM to LGBT causes (essentially, meet Kluwe’s previously stated terms).

I asked Halunen if he advised his client to stay off social media while the lawsuit is in flux, and he said he told Kluwe to “tweet all day long,” as he feels that Twitter is a good avenue for Kluwe to tell his side of the story. Additionally, I wondered if Kluwe’s age, salary, declining performance (at least, according to Pro Football Focus), and the presence of rookie Jeff Locke would allow Halunen to accept that Kluwe’s release could have been performance-based. Halunen said that Kluwe’s numbers declined because he “took the directive of Preifer every time he punted,” employing kicking strategies that he did not agree with at the behest of his coach. Regarding Kluwe’s salary, Halunen says the punter “would have considered taking less money” if asked by the Vikings.

8:42pm: The Vikings have released a 29-page summary of their investigation (PDF provided by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune), which makes many of the same points as the statement released earlier by the team, including that Kluwe’s release was based on performance, not his views on same-sex issues.

7:50pm: Kluwe has now responded to the Vikings’ statement, per Tomasson (Twitter links), claiming that the report is full of “lies”: “It just shows that the Vikings clearly don’t want to get to the bottom of a culture that clearly protects homophobic behavior.”

Additionally, Kluwe’s attorney says that although he knows the report may be unflattering to Kluwe, he still wants it released, and still plans to sue. Regarding the supposed July 8 email in which he asked that the report not be published, Halunen claims that he only wanted certain footnotes with personal information to be redacted, per Ben Goessling of ESPN.com (Twitter links).

Kluwe himself is tweeting about the situation, saying that he knows the Vikings are playing “dirty” with him, as well as admitting the Sandusky remarks.

7:36pm: According to Pro Football Talk (via Twitter), Kluwe’s lawyer, in a July 8 email, asked that the report not be released.

Also, the Vikings have released a lengthy statement (not the ~150-page report), in which they find evidence that Priefer made inappropriate remarks, but deny that the team tried to quiet Kluwe’s views or that Kluwe’s release was tied to the situation. Priefer himself offers an apology within the statement:

I owe an apology to many people – the Wilf family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and fans, my family, the LGBT community, Chris Kluwe and anyone else that I offended with my insensitive remark. I regret what has occurred and what I said. I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect.

7:27pm: Kluwe has responded to Priefer’s three-game suspension, per Tomasson (Twitter links): “I think that’s completely unacceptable…Are we going to know (in what is released by Vikings) what exactly are they suspending him for?”

Additionally, a source tells Pro Football Talk that information will surface in the report that Kluwe “made light of the Jerry Sandusky situation” by engaging in inappropriate activity (Twitter links). If true, this could hurt Kluwe’s case, as well as sully his image as someone who is sensitive to such issues.

7:14pm: Former NFL punter Chris Kluwe will file a lawsuit against the Vikings as early as Monday, reports Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Kluwe will claim that he was released from the Vikings due to his candid views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

We learned on Tuesday that Kluwe, who played for Minnesota from 2005-2012, would consider dropping the suit if the Vikings released the full findings of their investigation into the matter. Additionally, he asked that the team suspend special teams coach Mike Priefer, whom Kluwe claims made homophobic remarks, for four to eight games, and that $1MM be donated to LGBT causes.

However, Kluwe’s attorney, Clayton Halunen, asserts that the Vikings will only release a “scrubbed down” verison of their report and offered to donate just $100K to LGBT groups. As for Priefer, he will be suspended three games, apologize, and attend sensitivity training, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (via Twitter). Tomasson specifies that Priefer’s sentence will be reduced to two games if he undergoes said training, and that while the coach “acknowledged” making incendiary remarks, he didn’t “flat out admit it” (Twitter links).

Per Tesfatsion, Kluwe will “claim discrimination on the grounds of human rights, religion, defamation and ‘tortious interference for contractual relations.'” The former special-teamer has stated that any money he is awarded will be given to charity, and his lawyer tells Tomasson that that amount could be significant. “We’ll go after everything he’d be entitled for his wrongful termination,’’ said Halunen. “Compensation for wages and benefits lost, emotional distress, damage to his reputation. It could be sizable. It could be over $10MM.’’

The Vikings will release a report of “decent length” tonight regarding the Kluwe ordeal, tweets Tesfatsion, although it isn’t clear if this refers to a summary of the original investigation’s findings, or simply a rebuttal to Kluwe.

NFC Links: Kluwe, Hayden, Ponder

The Chris Kluwe investigation is coming to an end. According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the lawyers in charge of the case estimate that the process will be finished in the next ten days.

Kluwe, who claimed his 2013 release by the Vikings was related to his support for same-sex marriage, has yet to find a job this season. Former coach Leslie Frazier was fired in late December, but special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer (who Kluwe accused of making “homophobic remarks”) was retained by new coach Mike Zimmer.

Let’s see what else is happening in the NFC…

  • Christian Ponder doesn’t have better than “an outside chance” of being the Vikings starting quarterback, writes ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling. According to the writer, the former first-round pick hasn’t done anything “to suggest he’s changed enough to challenge for the job.”
  • D.J. Hayden missed another practice this afternoon, and Raiders coach Dennis Allen doesn’t sound too optimistic about a quick return. “It’s hard to tell,” Allen said (via Steve Corkran of The Mercury News). “Initially I was hopeful of (a quick return). Hopefully we’ll have him out here, because he needs the work.”
  • Former Lions (and current Bears) defensive end Willie Young doesn’t have any hard feeling against his former team. “They did [show interest] but we definitely broke ways on good terms,” Young said (via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com). “I definitely enjoyed my years here, I can say that. Thankful for the opportunity I was able to create for myself here and landing me in Chicago right now.”