There may be more to the Cleveland Browns firing Mike Priefer.
The Cleveland Browns made the odd move to fire Mike Priefer weeks after all of the coaching movement started. Firing Priefer wasn’t an issue, but it’s highly uncommon for anyone to be fired this late into the coaching search process. So late, that it feels like the firing may not have been Kevin Stefanski’s call. Especially with the recent news that the Browns went and got Raymond Ventrone to fill the special teams coordinator job.
Why fire a coach so late into the process? There’s one theory and it involves some tinfoil hats and our favorite meddler.
This reeks of Jimmy Haslam’s influence. Why only fire Priefer when it became known Ventrone would be available? If Priefer was an issue, why not fire him at the end of the season? There’s no need to rush to get a special teams coordinator in January or February, you could’ve taken your time if you thought Ventrone could become available. You didn’t need to toy with Preifer like this and make him think his job was safe when it wasn’t.
Instead, Priefer only got the axe when Ventrone became available. That’s not a coincidence. This feels like Ventrones’ availability was unexpected, and someone with considerable pull decided to go get him.
Seeing as how Kevin Stefanski, nor Andrew Berry had any connections to Ventrone during his playing days, it’d be fair to say that Haslam was the one who made the call. After all, Ventrone did play one season for Haslam in 2012. It may be a stretch but it would help make things a bit more clear.
Haslam has a history of keeping “his guys” around. Say hello to Paul DePodesta if you need help seeing that.
Clearly, Priefer was not seen as a, or the problem for the special teams unit. Otherwise, he would’ve lost his job sooner.
No, this felt like someone was clearing space specifically for Ventrone. Now, you may say, “well, what if Ventrone didn’t go to Cleveland?” That’s a possibility, but it’s not like the Browns haven’t jumped without looking before. Especially when Haslam is calling the shots. They have a tendency to burn bridges with people. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they fired Priefer before they knew Ventrone was committed to Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns may be dealing with a power struggle
The pressure is clearly on the coaching staff, and either Stefanski is buckling under pressure from the front office and firing guys he doesn’t want to, or the front office is making the call for Stefanski. Either way, this firing, at the time it happened, clearly shows a lack of t faith in Stefanski.
Two of his closest coaches were fired. Two of the men he brought in, were fired. The man Stefanski intrusted the team with during their game against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. That takes a lot of trust and admiration to give someone that kind of responsibility.
Having to fire Priefer can’t sit well with Stefanski.
Yet, the Coordinator-Culling is usually a desperate move, but who is the desperate man? Is it Stefanski trying to prove he can make tough calls? Is it Berry proving he’s the one with the stroke? Is it Haslam getting his guy in place for when Stefanski fails?
It’s entirely possible Ventrone is here to replace Stefanski if and when Stefanski fails. Haslam, after all, often overreacts.
He’s notorious for overreacting when the team struggles. The team went out and got a serial predator and paid him $200+ million guaranteed, despite it angering the league and fanbase. A huge overreaction. Remember Rob Chudzinski’s 11+ month stint as head coach? Firing him was an overreaction.
Haslam does not care about optics, nor does he care who he upsets. Is it possible that Ventrone was brought in to replace Stefanski? Why not? Vetrone interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts head coaching gig, so it’s clear that there are some in the league who see him as a head coach.
Any other sporting franchise, in any other sport, at any other time in the history of that specific league, something like that would seem impossible. Make your head coach fire one of his closest confidants, only to force him to hire the guy you’ll give the team over to if said head coach struggles.
That seems mad, and absolutely something Haslam would do.