With the Browns searching for their seventh full-time head coach since 1999, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Saturday that University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are the top two candidates to fill the vacancy created by the firing of Rob Chudzinski after just one season on the job.
On Saturday, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner interviewed McDaniels, a former Canton resident, in the New England area, according to several 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. The Patriots (12-4) have a bye this weekend and won't play until Jan. 11.
Stoops, on the other hand, could make his first leap to the NFL at any time. He led Oklahoma to a 45-31 upset over Alabama on Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl.
Asked Friday by Sooners reporters about being linked to the Browns' job, Stoops said, "You never know."
The Browns are expected to interview Stoops this week, Rapoport reported. The organization's decision makers think Stoops provides a perfect mix of being a disciplinarian and a players' coach, according to the report.
The Browns, though, might have competition for Stoops, a Youngstown native. A source told Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel that the Browns and Detroit Lions are in play for Stoops.
Stoops, 53, and McDaniels, 37, might be atop the list, but they aren't the only candidates on the Browns' radar.
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.
However, Gase 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 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, 41, 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. The team is not commenting on interviews during its search.
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