Browns Eye Former Standout for Coordinator Position

Bubba Ventrone

Getty Images Former Cleveland Browns defensive backs Mike Adams Bubba Ventrone.

The Cleveland Browns parted ways with veteran special teams coordinator Mike Priefer on Tuesday and already have a replacement in mind.

The Browns have requested an interview with Indianapolis Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, who was a candidate for the team’s head coaching opening. He’s the top candidate for the opening with the Browns, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

“The Browns requested an interview with Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, who is considered a top candidate for the same job in Cleveland, per sources,” Pelissero tweeted. “A former Browns special teams ace, Ventrone has led one of the NFL’s top units in Indianapolis.”

The Colts could refuse to grant the interview, although it seems unlikely with new head coach Shane Steichen now leading the squad.

Ventrone served as the Browns’ special teams captain in 2011 and 2012. He spent nearly a decade in the NFL and gained a reputation as a stellar special teams player. Ventrone started his coaching career with the New England Patriots as an assistant special teams coordinator before landing with the Colts in 2018.

The Browns have also requested an interview with New York Giants assistant special teams coordinator Anthony Blevins. He has spent the last five seasons with the Giants but entered the league with the Cardinals, serving as their assistant special teams coordinator from 2013-17.

Blevins has mostly been a special teams coach since landing in the NFL, although he’s dabbled on defense as well, coaching linebackers and defensive backs.

Blevins was previously considered for the Denver Broncos special teams coordinator position but they chose instead to hire Ben Kotwica.

Browns Issue Statement on Firing of Priefer

The timing of Priefer’s firing was interesting but he was considered to be on the hot seat due to the inconsistencies shown by his unit over the years. The most glaring issue was the development of rookie kicker Cade York — a fourth-round pick of the Browns last season. He made just 24 of 32 field goals and missed a pair of extra points.

“He’s very confident,” Preifer said of York. “He knows he’s good. There are some things that he needs to do a little bit better that when he comes back next year that is what we would expect him to improve upon. I do like the future for Cade because he does have that mentality and confidence about him.

“Now, he has a year under his belt, and that is only going to help him going forward. When he studies this year – the good, the bad and the ugly – and then improves from there, I think he is only going to get better.”

York will now have to learn under a new coordinator and the Browns will also have to sort out their return game. Cleveland brought in Pro Bowl return man Jakeem Grant in the offseason but he didn’t play a snap with the Browns after injuring his Achilles in practice.

The big highlight for the return unit was a punt return touchdown by Donovan Peoples-Jones on December 4.

Browns Issue Statement on Firing of Priefer

Preifer had a close relationship with Kevin Stefanski and was his fill-in during the Browns’ 2020 playoff win against the Steelers. Stefanski missed the game with COVID-19.

The Browns issued a statement shortly after the firing of Priefer, thanking him for his services but also saying they were ready for a change.

“I appreciate everything Prief has done for this team in his three seasons as my special teams coordinator, but I have decided to move in another direction in the best interest of our organization,” coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. “I know this city will forever be grateful for the job he did as acting head coach in our AFC (wild card) win and for all his contributions while leading the Browns special teams units for the last four seasons. We wish Prief the best with his next opportunity.”

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