MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have hired longtime Houston Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano to fill in for Mike Priefer while the coach is serving his three-game suspension, head coach Mike Zimmer announced on Sunday.
Marciano, who had been with the Texans since the team's inception in 2002 until last season, was fired shortly after the dismissal of coach Gary Kubiak last December. The 28-year coaching veteran was "kind of retired," Zimmer said, but he will instead take over the Vikings' special teams unit while Priefer serves his suspension for a homophobic remark he made during the 2012 season.
Priefer had coached against Marciano for years in the NFL, and his father Chuck -- himself a longtime special teams coach -- competed against him, as well. Assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken could have handled the job, Priefer said, but Priefer supported the idea of getting a more experienced coach when he was asked for his opinion on the move.
"I’ve said that I think Ryan can handle it. There’s no doubt in my mind he can," Priefer said. "I can understand why we would bring in a veteran coach, and the fact that Joe was available was a benefit and a plus for us."
Marciano was at the Vikings' morning walk-through and will work through the rest of the preseason with both Ficken and Priefer, whose suspension starts the Monday before the Vikings' season opener against the St. Louis Rams. Priefer has said he's already started working on game plans for the Rams and the New England Patriots, and had planned to begin working on plans for the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings' third opponent. His suspension can be reduced to two games if he completes sensitivity training.
"He’s a great guy. Very, very knowledgeable,” Zimmer said of Marciano. “We felt like, in our thinking, that it would be good to get someone in here the next three weeks of camp to get a feel of exactly how we’re doing things, where we can continue to speak the same language and have some veteran experience for the first couple of ballgames, especially with me being a new head coach.”