BEREA — The connection to Baker Mayfield and the presence of General Manager John Dorsey at the past two University of Oklahoma football games suggests Sooners coach Lincoln Riley could become a legitimate candidate to lead the Browns.

But Riley has no NFL experience, and whether he'll feel compelled to take a leap into the league is far from certain.

Mayfield said Wednesday he has not tried to lure Riley to the Browns.

Does Riley, 35, even want to test the NFL waters?

"I think down the road probably, but I’m not going to speak for him," Mayfield replied as the Browns (4-7-1) prepared for Sunday's home game against the Carolina Panthers (6-6). "But he’s ready whenever that time comes."

Dorsey, who's leading the Browns' search for their ninth full-time head coach since 1999, may want to find out if Riley would be interested in reuniting with Mayfield sooner than the rookie quarterback would anticipate.

For what it's worth, Dorsey attended Oklahoma's wins over West Virginia (Nov. 23) and Texas (Dec. 1) while Riley led the Sooners to a College Football Playoff berth for the second time in his second season as their head coach.

"[Dorsey is] actually really close with the athletic director, Joe Castiglione," Mayfield said. "I've definitely known about it. [Dorsey has] given me a hard time, but he's gone, and it's been two wins. That's all I know. But who knows what he's doing down there?"

Mayfield and Riley spent three seasons together at Oklahoma. Riley served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach during the first two, then succeeded Bob Stoops as the head coach last year.

Asked if he wants Riley to lead the Browns, Mayfield said, "I have a relationship with Lincoln. He’s been great, and we had success, but whatever decision is made here, I’m going to make the most of it. Obviously, there’s been a level of comfortability with him in the past that I’ve had, but whatever happens, happens. And you know what? You can’t control that, so I’m not going to worry about it."

If Riley were to enter the NFL, Mayfield has no doubt his former coach would succeed.

"After being here, it’s about respect," Mayfield said. "You get a locker room full of guys that are making a lot of money. Obviously, the egos are going to be there. You have to have the respect in guys. You have to be able to get the best out of them, even when they’re going to get paid regardless. So you’ve got to be able to get the most out of them and demand it, just by respect, and so when it comes down to it, that’s why I would say he’s a great coach.

"Lincoln’s been ready [to thrive in the NFL]. It’s just who he is and how he coaches and the respect level he’s had from all of his players — how detailed he is. Yeah, he’s ready, but that’s his decision. He’s got something special there [at Oklahoma], so I don’t think anybody is going to blame him if he stays there for the next 20 years."

Based on Mayfield's recommendation, Riley would satisfy the main criteria Dorsey has laid out for the coaching search: leadership, character and high football acumen.

"Some of those coaches that are so successful, they have the standard, and they live by that standard every day," Mayfield said. "[Riley] does it with football, family and he’s just a great human being. He wants the best for everybody, and he’s always encouraging. He will wrap his arm around somebody, talk to them and help them out no matter what it is."

Of course, Riley isn't the only coach who has been linked to the Browns' vacancy.

Kansas City Chiefs assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Dave Toub, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, retired Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and fired Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy are among the others. Interim coach Gregg Williams will get an interview, but he's a long shot.

Toub, Bieniemy and McCarthy have worked with Dorsey.

Browns center JC Tretter, who spent four years with McCarthy in Green Bay, praised the coach Monday and opined McCarthy would mesh with Mayfield.

"I think they would do great," Tretter said. "He started working with Aaron [Rodgers] when Aaron was [in his second NFL season], and Aaron’s developed into a hell of a player, so I think that relationship would be fine.

"I see a lot of similarities between Aaron and Baker personality-wise, competitiveness, and that’s all the things that Aaron came in with, too, when he was a young player. So I think they’d work well together."

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.