There isn't a lot of public intel on the Browns' acting head coach this week, Mike Priefer. He's been coaching in the NFL since 2002, but exclusively on special teams. This week, he's filling in for Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for COVID-19 and won't be on the sidelines for Sunday night's game against the Steelers.
The lifelong assistant is suddenly the most interesting figure of Super Wild Card Weekend.
As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin put it the other day, "I know very little about Mike Priefer about global decision-making in terms of being a head coach."
Don't expect much deviation from Stefanski.
The two worked alongside one another in Minnesota for eight seasons before Priefer left for Cleveland in 2019. Their extended intersection likely explains why the Browns HC put his special teams coordinator in charge this week. No one on Cleveland's staff knows Stefanski better.
"I'm going to try to be an extension of Kevin," Priefer told reporters Thursday. "You guys know my background with him. I understand situational football, so that part won't change, but I'm going to try to do exactly what Kevin would want in those situations."
For Cleveland, that's meant an almost even split between passing and running (51.6%-48.4%, the latter being the fourth-highest mark in the league) and going for it on fourth down 1.5 times per game, which falls on the aggressive when compared to its peers. He has offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt in tow to call plays, and he can trust defensive coordinator Joe Woods, also a former Vikings colleague, to handle his unit.
Of course, the pregame speech will come from Priefer.
"I'll keep it short and sweet, I promise," he said.
Priefer's had extra time to think about it with the team's facility shut down the past two days. He said he wasn't sure if the building will reopen Thursday.
This isn't the first time Priefer's been tapped to temporarily take over for a head coach. In 2016, he stepped in for the Vikings' Mike Zimmer, who had an emergency eye surgery and was unavailable for a Week 13 game versus the Cowboys. Stefanski was then the running backs coach for Minnesota, which went on to lose, 17–15.
For what it's worth, Priefer has worked with Stefanski longer than he had Zimmer. We'll learn just how valuable that experience has been this weekend.