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Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer announces he’s joining Browns; Steve Wilks reportedly working on deal to become defensive coordinator

Freddie Kitchens’ deal to become Browns head coach still wasn’t done Friday night, but he’s getting work done.

Mike Priefer agreed to become special teams coordinator, he announced in a statement Friday.

And former Cardinals coach Steve Wilks was in town interviewing for the defensive coordinator job. NFL Network reported the sides were working on a contract.

Wilks, 49, was fired last week after going 3-13 in his only season as coach of the Cardinals. He was a longtime defensive backs coach, including 12 years in the NFL, before becoming Panthers coordinator in 2017.


The Cardinals ran a 4-3 scheme, as did the Browns in the last two years under former coordinator Gregg Williams. The Panthers defense ranked seventh in yards and 11th in scoring in 2017, and the 2018 Cardinals were 20th and 26th.

Wilks also had the title of assistant head coach in his final three years in Carolina.

Kitchens also showed interest in former head coaches Vance Joseph, Chuck Pagano and Steve Spagnuolo, according to reports. Joseph was hired by new Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury on Friday.

Williams was in talks with new Jets coach Adam Gase to become their coordinator, according to NFL Network. Williams went 5-3 as Browns interim coach after Hue Jackson was fired.

On the other side of the ball, former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken planned to interview with the Browns, Packers and Lions for their coordinator jobs, ESPN reported. Former Lions coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was also expected to interview, according to NFL Network.

Priefer had spent the last eight years as special teams coordinator with the Vikings and has a history of successful units.

“I am excited to work with Coach Kitchens, John Dorsey and the entire Browns organization,” he wrote in the statement. “I will always remember my time spent with the Vikings and deeply appreciate everyone that I was able to work with during my time there.”

Priefer was born in Cleveland. His father, Chuck, started his coaching career at Padua High School in Parma before eventually making it in the NFL as a special teams coach. He coached Browns general manager John Dorsey with the Packers in 1985.

Mike Priefer said he was offered a new contract by the Vikings, and NFL Network reported the Lions and Falcons also interviewed him. He’ll replace Amos Jones, whose units were awful in his lone season in Cleveland.

Priefer has coached in the NFL for 17 years, also serving as special teams coordinator with the Broncos and Chiefs. He was interim coach for part of the 2016 season when Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had emergency eye surgery.

Priefer went to the Naval Academy and flew helicopters for five years after graduation.

He coached under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State in 1997-98, winning a Division I-AA national championship.

The Vikings suspended Priefer without pay for the first three games of the 2014 season after an independent investigation into claims he made a homophobic remark during the 2012 season.

Punter Chris Kluwe, a vocal advocate for equal rights, alleged Priefer said: “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island and then nuke it until it glows.”

The investigators found corroboration he said something along those lines, and Priefer apologized for the “insensitive remark.” The suspension was later reduced to two games.

“I regret what has occurred and what I said,” he said in a statement at the time. “I am extremely sorry but I will learn from this situation and will work on educating others to create more tolerance and respect.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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