Did Mike Priefer earn an NFL head coaching job after Thursday?

Did Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer possibly intrigue some NFL teams with his performance as the team’s interim head coach on Thursday?

With less than 24-hours notice, Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer found out that he would have a few more responsibilities for the team’s Thursday night showdown with the Dallas Cowboys.

After Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer had to undergo emergency eye surgery on Wednesday night, the team did not know if he would be able to be on the sidelines the following day. Instead of risking any further injury to Zimmer, Minnesota made the decision to have Priefer take over the head coaching duties against the Cowboys.

The Vikings were unable to beat Dallas on Thursday with Priefer as their interim coach, but he did a few things that may have intrigued a couple of teams around the NFL that could be looking for a new head coach after this season.

While on the sidelines Thursday night with a headset on for what might have been the first time, Priefer did not look out of his element. Others may have cracked under the pressure of having to lead an entire team and coaching staff, but Priefer seemed quite calm and collected.

Priefer has the experience of dealing with a number of different personalities during his career as a special teams coach.

Jul 27, 2015; Mankato, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer talks with cornerback Trae Waynes (26) at training camp at Minnesota State University. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps his demeanor on Thursday had to do with his upbringing. As the son of a former NFL assistant and a graduate of the U.S. Naval academy, he is likely very aware that the opportunity he was given on Thursday was not just handed to him with no reasoning behind it.

Since arriving in Minnesota in 2011, Priefer has helped the Vikings’ special teams become one of the most consistent aspects of the franchise, especially with punt coverage.

Including this season, Minnesota has ranked in the top 10 in average yards allowed per punt return for the last three years. The Vikings special teams unit has not allowed an opponent to return a punt for a touchdown since the 2013 season.

But back to Thursday.

With less than three minutes remaining in the game, Minnesota trailed Dallas 17-9 and needed to force the Cowboys to punt. On 2nd and 9, Dallas quarterback Das Prescott scrambled for what

seemed like 10 yards and a first down that would have likely been the final nail in the Vikings’ coffin Thursday.

But members of Minnesota’s staff and Priefer thought that Prescott was actually down before the first down marker and opted to challenge the spot of the ball.

Turned out that the spot was actually off by quite a bit and instead of a first down, Dallas now had to attempt to convert on 3rd and 1 instead. Prescott ended up fumbling on the next play and the Vikings were able to get one more chance at beating the Cowboys.

The night did not end with a win, but Priefer showed a great deal of self awareness by listening to his staff on that challenge and it allowed Minnesota to have another opportunity to win the game.

While special teams coaches getting hired as head coaches is not the norm, a number of successful former and current NFL head coaches (Marv Levy, Dick Vermeil, Bill Cowher, John Harbaugh) first began their coaching careers by leading a team’s special teams unit.

Could Priefer be next?