Now that Hue Jackson has been fired by the Cleveland Browns, prepare to hear Lincoln Riley’s name mentioned as a top candidate where he’d be reunited with Baker Mayfield.
It was only a matter of time until this happened, but after losing on Sunday, the Browns have decided to fire head coach Hue Jackson. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Browns during his tenure, especially after a winless 2017 season. The Browns have yet to name their interim coach for the rest of the year, but the candidates to be the next head coach will feature a number of NFL assistants who could be in line for the job, but the top candidate should be Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.
A reunion with Baker Mayfield could be on tap for Riley who coached Mayfield and served as his offensive coordinator under Bob Stoops. Riley coached Mayfield to a Heisman Trophy and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
There was speculation before Jackson was fired that Riley would be a natural candidate for the job. Now that it is official, expect the spotlight to shine brightly on Riley every week for the rest of the year, or until the Browns hire a coach. We’re about to enter the silly coaching carousel season and Riley will take center stage.
Riley owns one of the best jobs in college football. He’s at a blue blood program with all the facilities and support from the administration anyone could ask for. He’s already won big there and has no undue pressure crushing down on his shoulders like a coach in the SEC might have. Riley could be at Oklahoma for as long as his predecessor, Bob Stoops if he’d like. He could be a fixture at Oklahoma for the next two decades if he wants. I expect him to be peppered with questions about his future at every media availability and I expect he’ll say he’s focused on Oklahoma and the week’s opponent.
But he could also take his innovative offense and take on the challenge of the NFL. The Oklahoma job is a better job than the Browns job to be sure. However, the lure of the NFL and reuniting with Mayfield and getting a roster that has been stocked with young talent in the last two drafts. could be too tempting to pass up. The Browns have ample salary cap space to supplement the roster with veteran talent to complement the young players like Mayfield and last year’s No. 1 pick Myles Garrett. The most important thing for the Browns is finding the coach who will get the most out of Mayfield. We already know Riley can do that.
Part of me would love to see Riley go to the Browns and see if he could replicate the type of offensive success in the NFL game. And considering the NFL has adopted many of the spread principles and concepts, I think Riley would have Sean McVay-like effect on the Browns and get them into playoff contention in the next two-three years.
It’s certainly much harder to win as the coach of the Browns than as the Sooners, but if Riley is ready to take the challenge on, the Browns may not be able to do any better than the college football wunderkind.