By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
With the Browns searching for their seventh full-time head coach since 1999, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, 37, and University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, 53, are the top two candidates to fill the vacancy created by the firing of Rob Chudzinski after just one season on the job.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner interviewed McDaniels, who grew up in Canton, Saturday in New England, according to several reports.
However, there are conflicting reports about whether Stoops is actually in the mix for the Browns.
Rapoport reported the Browns are expected to interview Stoops this week, but Cleveland.com cited a source who said that is false. During a segment on the NFL Network, Rapoport went as far as to say the Browns think Stoops provides a perfect mix of being a disciplinarian and a players’ coach.
A source also told Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel that the Browns and Detroit Lions are in play for Stoops, a Youngstown native who led Oklahoma to a 45-31 upset over Alabama on Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl. Stoops has never coached in the NFL.
Asked Friday by Sooners reporters about being linked to the Browns’ job, Stoops said, “You never know.”
The Browns are not commenting on interviews during their search.
The Browns and Minnesota Vikings requested permission to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Rapoport characterized the Browns as being “very interested” in Gase.
Gase, though, has elected to postpone his interview opportunities with the Browns and Vikings until the Broncos are done with the playoffs. The Broncos (13-3) have a bye this weekend and won’t play until Jan. 12.
“I told both teams that were interested in me that I appreciated it and I was going to wait until after our season had concluded,” Gase, 35, told Denver reporters Friday. “They were great about it. They said they appreciated me being up front and honest about it, and I thought that was the best decision for what we are trying to accomplish with our team.”
The Browns, who went 4-12 in Chudzinski’s lone season, are also interested in Vanderbilt University coach James Franklin and Auburn University coach Gus Malzahn, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Tuesday.
The Browns and Washington Redskins have requested interviews with Franklin, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday. Franklin, 41, interviewed with the Houston Texans two weeks ago before they decided to hire former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, according to the report. Franklin led Vanderbilt (9-4) to a 41-24 win over the University of Houston (8-5) Saturday in the BBVA Compass Bowl. After the game, Franklin didn’t specifically address whether he would return as Vanderbilt’s coach next season.
Malzahn, 48, and Southeastern Conference champion Auburn (12-1) will face Florida State (13-0) in the BCS Championship Game on Monday night. Asked Friday if he would be interested in interviewing for any NFL job, Malzahn said, “I’m happy at Auburn, and I think I’ve made that clear.”
The Browns have already interviewed Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 43, and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, 50, according to several national reports.
NFL assistant coaches whose teams are in the playoffs are not permitted to agree to jobs until they’re eliminated from the postseason, according to league rules. McDaniels and the Patriots (12-4) as well as Quinn and the Seahawks (13-3) have byes this weekend and won’t play until Jan. 11.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.