Sunday slant: Delay only hurts Priefer

Chris Kluwe's interview with investigating attorneys was delayed, which could put special teams coach Mike Priefer in an even worse position to maintain a job in 2014.

A convoluted story with allegations of bigotry and homophobia could take months to untangle.

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe caused quite the storm with an article he wrote that accused special teams coach Mike Priefer of anti-gay remarks with Kluwe alleging his outspoken stance on gay marriage was the reason the Vikings released him.

Kluwe's article on Deadspin.com created a horrible image of Priefer and one he might not be able to erase anytime soon, other than the public statement in which he said he "vehemently" denied Kluwe's allegations.

"I want to be clear that I do not tolerate discrimination of any type and am respectful of all individuals. I personally have gay family members who I love and support just as I do any family member," Priefer said in the statement.

That might be the last time we hear from Priefer in quite some time. He likely will keep quiet until an investigation conducted by attorneys hired by the Vikings is complete. On Friday night, Kluwe's attorney, Clayton Halunen, told the Pioneer Press the investigation could take six months. An interview scheduled with Kluwe for this weekend has been pushed back until Jan. 24.

Meanwhile, Priefer waits in limbo.

The entire Vikings coaching staff, from coordinators to position coaches, are waiting to find out their fate after the Vikings fired head coach Leslie Frazier. Since the coaching staff was under contract through 2014, they will be paid but await the decision of the next head coach on whether they will have a job. A new head coach is likely to be named next week, but Priefer will almost surely have to wait for the investigation to at least draw some preliminary conclusions, and at worst be completed, before he knows his fate.

If a head coach is named next week, he will want to move quickly to secure his coaching staff. This much is known: Priefer is respected as a coach, a fact that even Kluwe concedes.

In fact, the Vikings were ranked first in special teams by the Dallas Morning News after their performance in 2012, Kluwe's final season with the team and in the league. Priefer was thought of so highly that his specialists even endorsed him as someone the front office should consider for the head coaching spot.

"I think his track record speaks for itself in that regard. He's probably the best special teams coach in the league, in my opinion and probably a lot of other people's opinions," Blair Walsh said when asked about the possibility of Priefer as a head coaching candidate. "I think we'd be crazy to make a move there the way we've developed in the last two years and the year before with him. Special teams has become a strength of our team. I think the future is bright if we continue to keep him and keep him as our coordinator."

Those sentiments, of course, came just days before Kluwe's allegations. These days, players are being advised not to talk to the media about the investigation while Kluwe continues to conduct interviews, hitting up everything from national media outlets – radio, television, newspapers – to fan blogs on the team.

While Walsh issued a statement backing Priefer after the allegations, it is ironic that, before the allegations, he talked about Priefer's ability to relate to players when simply asked what he would tell a new head coach about Priefer.

"I would absolutely tell them the fact about Prief and how he relates to the players as good as anybody on the staff. He genuinely cares about our success and tries to put us in the best position for that," Walsh said. "He's never going to make you do something that you shouldn't do in a game. His schemes are always top-notch. He's the consummate pro when it comes to being special teams coach."

If a new head coach is hired this week, it would be natural for him to have the majority of his staff assembled by Jan. 23, the last day that most NFL coaches – those employed and those looking for a job – are gathered together in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl. That event is such a job fair that Brad Childress once wore a visor with fake hair during practices there so he wouldn't be recognized by every job-seeking coach.

Unless the new head coach of the Vikings has inside knowledge from the attorneys on which way the investigation is going, it would take uncanny patience for him to wait until Kluwe's interview with investigators on Jan. 24 before deciding Priefer's fate.

Kluwe said he waited until after the Vikings' season was over for his allegations because he didn't want to be a distraction to the team. He also initially said he didn't want Priefer to coach again, and since amended that statement to saying he hopes Priefer gets counseling before coaching again.

Either way, the timing of the allegations, couple with the firing of Frazier and the delay in Kluwe's interview, create a bad confluence of consequences for Priefer, whether the allegations are true or not.

QUICK SLANTS

  • The Indianapolis Colts' 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on wild card weekend featured two former No. 1 overall draft picks at quarterback – Andrew Luck and Alex Smith – starting for the teams. It was the fifth time in postseason history that each team's starting quarterback was a former first overall selection. Smith also lost to No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning in the 2011 NFC Championship Game, but the Vikings also had an entry in this statistic. In the 1999 wild card round, Jeff George, quarterbacking the Vikings, beat Troy Aikman's Cowboys 27-10.

  • The Vikings made the playoffs in 2012 and fell well short in 2013, but there is hope for them again in 2014. In 2013, there were five teams in the playoffs – Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Diego – that didn't make the postseason the previous year. Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least five teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. The Vikings were part of that five times – in 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

  • Stat of interest: The 2013 Vikings set several negative records, but they also had the fewest penalties in franchise history. They committed 70 penalties, easily under the previous record of 83 in 1990.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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