EAGAN, Minn. — Have you heard the Minnesota Vikings have had a few issues with kicking over the years? Well, turns out this year is no different.
As a team, the Vikings have made just 17 of 27 kicks, which ranks 31st in the NFL in field goal percentage.
Special teams coach Mike Priefer has come under fire for the club’s consistent issues with kicking, dating back to Blair Walsh’s slide to Kai Forbath’s problems with extra points to the release of rookie Daniel Carlson to current kicker Dan Bailey’s struggles.
Last year the Vikings were 18th in field goal percentage and 31st in extra point percentage. In 2016, they ranked last in extra points.
Priefer was asked Thursday if there’s some type of mental effect of playing for a team that has had historical struggles with kickers or if there’s another explanation for the consistency of problems. The Vikings’ special teams coordinator sought to set the record straight, especially on Walsh.
“If you remember Blair Walsh was a 60 percent kicker his senior year in college and he went to the Pro Bowl his rookie year, he had a phenomenal year and his second year was pretty good even though he got banged up,” Priefer said. “What happened with Blair, in my opinion, is that he lost a lot of weight. He was trying to be more fit, and when he lost the weight he lost the strength. He lost the strength, he changed his technique and then he wasn’t as successful. That’s something I tried to stop and didn’t get it stopped.”
Priefer also mentioned that Kai Forbath exorcized the club’s kicking demons last year during the playoffs by hitting a 53-yard field goal that would have been the game-winner if the Vikings’ defense had stopped the New Orleans Saints’ final drive in the divisional playoff game. He pointed out that it would have been far more memorable if not for the Minneapolis Miracle.
The team moved on from Forbath this year in favor of Carlson, who they drafted in the fifth round and cut after a three-miss day in Green Bay.
Carlson has moved on to Oakland and quickly become one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers, hitting 10 of 11 as a Raider.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Priefer said. “I know they’ve been talking about his technique and all that stuff, that’s what we did here. He was really long when he got here and we worked really hard all spring and summer long into making him a compact approach. I think he had one bad game and it was more mental than physical. He’s a really good kicker. I’m happy for him.”
Some have wondered if Priefer’s approach has impacted Vikings kickers negatively.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything different than other coaches, in fact, I think I understand the craft of kicking better than most coaches,” Prefer said. “I’m trying not to over-coach them. Certainly not over-coaching Dan Bailey. It’s a product of the whole battery working together and being more consistent.”
He did joke that he won’t be applying for any jobs as a mental coach.
“I’m not a mental coach, in fact, if he needs a mental coach, he needs to go elsewhere, I’d be the last guy, you can ask my kids, I’d be the last guy to be a mental coach expert, I’m a little emotional, I get a little fired up,” Priefer said.