Add longtime University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops to the list of names linked to the Browns as they search for their seventh full-time head coach since 1999 after firing Rob Chudzinski Sunday night after he spent just one season on the job.
During Oklahoma’s 45-31 victory over Alabama on Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl, former NFL personnel man Tony Softli wrote on Twitter that, “Stoops may have the inside track on the Cleveland Browns opening.” Softli was the Carolina Panthers’ director of college scouting and the St. Louis Rams’ vice president of player personnel before becoming a sideline reporter for the Rams and an insider for St. Louis radio station ESPN 101.
Stoops is a Youngstown native and a graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School. He has a Cleveland-based agent, Neil Cornrich.
Stoops was not asked about being linked to the Browns' vacancy during his postgame news conference Thursday night, but he did face the question Friday morning on The Dan Patrick Show.
"I never acknowledge or deny whether anybody’s contacted me or not," Stoops said. "It’s something publicly I don’t do one way or the other."
Will he be interested at some point in entering the NFL?
"You never know what’ll come your way," Stoops said. "In life, things change from year to year. Right now, I love what I’m doing. Right now, it’s something I’m not looking to pursue. You never know down the road."
The 53-year-old Stoops has led Oklahoma to a record of 160-39 and a bowl game in each of the 15 seasons since he became the Sooners’ head coach in 1999. He's the only coach to win all four BCS bowls, and he has coached 65 players at Oklahoma who went on to become NFL draft picks, including 13 selected in the first round. In July, Stoops received a contract extension from the school through the 2020 season.
Before Stoops took control at Oklahoma, he served as a defensive coordinator for Florida (1996-98) and Kansas State (1991-95). One of his previous stops as an assistant was at Kent State in 1988.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Stoops “has expressed some interest in joining the NFL.” As for the Browns, owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner certainly don’t exclude candidates from the college ranks in their coaching searches. Last year, they interviewed former University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly and former Syracuse University coach Doug Marrone who are now with the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills, respectively.
This year, the Browns are interested in Auburn University coach Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt University coach James Franklin, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Tuesday.
The Browns interviewed Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn Wednesday and are scheduled to interview Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles Friday and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels Saturday, according to several national reports. The Browns are not commenting on interviews during the search.