New Special Teams Coordinator? I Hope Not

Mike Priefer should not be fired. There I said it. While many fans are calling for a new special teams coach, we need to look deeper than just “our kicker doesn’t make kicks”. Since Priefer arrived back in 2011, he has lead the Vikings Special Teams unit to multiple great seasons. Back in early December, Nick Olson from Vikings Territory and Zone Coverage MN, tweeted out the PFF special teams’ rankings since 2013.

The Results?

2013: 7th
2014: 16th
2015: 3rd
2016: 7th
2017: 2nd
2018: 3rd (When Nick tweeted that in early December we were 10th)

Do those look like the rankings of a coach who needs to be fired/replaced? If you’re on that train you need to hop off of it. Now listen, I am not oblivious to the fact that we are known for a place where kickers come to die, and every Sunday when we watch field goal attempts we all silently are wondering if they are going to miss. But I am not going to sit here and advocate firing a coach who has consistently had one of the best special teams units since he’s been here. There is another route though, which is rarely done by NFL teams.

When you think of the offense and defense, they have their coordinators, and then they have position coaches. But when it comes to special teams there is nothing! It’s just the special teams’ coordinator, and nothing else. Who is helping these kickers focus on more of the detailed mechanics? When you think of the best Kicker in the NFL, the first that comes to mind for most people is Justin Tucker. Do you think its coincidence that the Ravens happen to be one of the few NFL teams that actually employ a specialists coach and have the league’s best Kicker? I personally don’t, but I have digressed from the point of this article.

My main point still is that Mike Priefer shouldn’t be fired. This unit played well this year, and had a good chunk of players who graded out really well for PFF standards.

Kentrell Brothers– 84.1- finished 15th out of 701

Eric Wilson– 77.9- finished 40th out of 701

Ben Gedeon and CJ Ham– 77.0- tied for 58th out of 701

Anthony Harris– 71.8- finished 84th out of 701

Jayron Kearse– 70.7- finished 103rd out of 701

And for Punt Returning, Marcus Sherels came in at 22nd out of 116

That a hell of a showing by those guys on special teams, who were coached up by a guy who many fans want fired.

Switch over to punting, and Matt Wile was 14th out of 34 in punting grades (minimum 20 attempts) and also 6th in highest hangtime, with only two touchbacks. These are some of the things that fans aren’t looking at in terms of positive things with Mike Priefer and our special teams units.

The only real bad spot this year, was our kicking [insert shocked face]. Dan Bailey ranked 28th of 36 kickers with at least 8 attempts in terms of kicking (Field Goals and XP), and was 29th out of 34 on kickoffs.

Even with the horrid kicking though, I don’t believe it’s a good enough reason for the Vikings to get rid of Mike Priefer, and at the moment I write this, the Vikings don’t think it’s a good idea to move on from him either. Do I think the kicking has to improve? Of course. Do I think the kicking will improve if we get rid of Priefer? Maybe, but you risk the chance of having a huge drop off in special teams’ production. The Vikings need to look at employing a specialists coach in hopes of helping out the kicking game, and I know I am not the only one that feels that way. I understand the disappointment from fans at the end of this season, but suggesting that we get rid of Mike Priefer is not the answer, he’s a great coach who consistently fields one of the best special teams units in the NFL. Skol!

S/O to Nick Olson and Luke Braun for helping out on this article.

And just for fun here are the stats since 2013 on our Kickers according to Pro Football Reference.

Year Player FG% Ranking XP% Ranking
2013 Blair Walsh 86.7 19th 97.7 30th
2014 Blair Walsh 74.3 32nd 100 T-1st
2015 Blair Walsh 87.2 13th 89.2 27th
2016 Blair Walsh 75 32nd 78.9 34th
2016 Kai Forbath 100 1st 78.6 35th
2017 Kai Forbath 84.2 17th 87.2 28th
2018 Daniel Carlson 25 Last 100 T-1st
2018 Dan Bailey 75 31st 96.8 11th
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