BEREA — Mike Priefer isn't managing expectations for his tenure with his hometown Browns.

"I want to be the best special teams coordinator that they have ever had," Priefer said Thursday at his introductory news conference at Browns headquarters. "I want to lead these young men in the area of special teams to help us win a championship."

The son of a longtime football coach, Priefer spent the first 10 years of his life in Northeast Ohio, five in Middleburg Heights and five in Brunswick. His father, Chuck, was head coach at Parma Padua Franciscan High School.

"My dad has been a huge influence on me as a person, as a man and as a football coach," Priefer said. "He was actually so much of an influence that he was the best man in my wedding."

The elder Priefer coached Browns General Manager John Dorsey when he played special teams for the Green Bay Packers in the mid-1980s. Mike Priefer was a ball boy for the Packers at the time and went on to become a helicopter pilot in the Navy.

"It was a great learning experience for me as a leader, and it helped me in my coaching career thus far," Priefer, 52, said.

Priefer spent the past eight seasons running the special teams of the Minnesota Vikings. He said he "bet on" himself by declining to sign a contract extension with them and chose the Browns after interviewing with the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons.

In ProFootballFocus.com’s final 2018 special teams rankings, the Browns were 32nd — dead last in the league. The Vikings were fourth. Priefer pointed out they were also the least penalized special teams unit in the NFL the past two seasons.

"When I first got to Minnesota, they were OK [on special teams]," Priefer said, "and we were pretty good right off the bat."

"How quickly can we turn around our special teams? I think that's going to depend on our players and depend on how much they buy into what we are doing here."

The biggest blemish on Priefer's resume is a suspension (originally three games but reduced to two) he received from the Vikings in 2014 for making a homophobic remark.

"I made a comment that I should not have made, and I apologized for that comment," Priefer said. "I learned a lot from it, and what I learned is that you can’t say hurtful things about people, period, no matter where you are, no matter who you're talking to."

 

Listing reasons

New Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken explained what he sought when he was looking for a new job this offseason.

"In order of what I was looking for was opportunity to win and potentially a franchise quarterback, the right people and third was calling the plays," he said.

Head coach Freddie Kitchens, not Monken, will call the offense's plays, but they both think Baker Mayfield is the answer at QB. An Oklahoma product, Mayfield joked Wednesday about inevitably butting heads with Monken because he's a former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator.

"It does absolutely stink that he's from Oklahoma," Monken quipped. "That was probably the negative that almost stopped me from taking the job."
 

Rooney Rule

New Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was one of eight minority head coaches in the NFL last season. Now there are four.

Wilks was asked if the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before hiring a head coach, is working.

"I do think it's working," he replied. "Every owner has their own expectations and the things they want. I think it's about production. It's about winning. Does it take time? Yes. You look at any Fortune 500 company in the United States, they will tell you that when someone comes in and takes it over, it's going to take some time. You just wish you had that time.

"I think the Rooney Rule is working. I think it is effective. The coaches have to understand that this is a production-based business. That’s what it’s all about."

 

Extra points

• Priefer announced he hired Doug Colman as a special teams assistant. A former linebacker, Colman appeared in five games with the Browns in 2000.

• Wilks offered unsolicited praise for strong safety Jabrill Peppers, the 25th overall pick in the 2017 draft. "He's a guy that's going to be able to fit well within our system," Wilks said. "I think you have to have guys that have linebacker traits but also DB skills because the game is so fast, and they try to spread you out, so you need those guys that are athletic in space, and I think he's going to bring that element."

• Priefer said he liked Browns kicker Greg Joseph last year when he was coming out of Florida Atlantic. He made 17-of-20 field goals and 25-of-29 extra points as a rookie. "He needs some technique work, but there is something there," Priefer said. "He has a really big leg. ... Will we bring in competition for him? I'm not sure yet."

• Wilks stopped short of saying major changes are needed at linebacker. "Do we need to improve in every area? I think so," he said.

• The Browns finished second in the NFL with 31 takeaways last season, and Wilks wants to build on that. "We pride ourselves not only on taking the ball away but scoring on defense," he said.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.