Cleveland Browns: Early potential head coach hires if Hue Jackson is fired
By Dan Justik
Lincoln Riley has become the hottest coaching name in all of football after what he did in his first season as the Oklahoma Sooners head coach. The 34-year-old head coach took over as head coach for Bob Stoops after Stoops surprisingly retired in June of 2017. In his first season as head coach, Riley led the Sooners to a 12-1 record before losing in double overtime in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
What has made Riley such a hot coaching name is his innovative offense. His offense even has NFL coaches wanting to talk to Riley about his concepts – via Albert Breer of The MMQB.
"And now Riley is to NFL coaches what Kelly once was—the guy so many of them want to meet, talk ball and trade info with. So chances are that come fall, what you see on Sundays across the league will look a little more like Oklahoma."
Since Riley became Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator in 2015, the Sooners have had one of the best offenses in all of college football. Last season, Oklahoma led the FBS in total offense with 8,114 yards. They also were the third-best in the FBS in scoring offense with 45.1 points per game, according to NCAA.com. He also helped Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield become a Heisman winning quarterback and the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Riley’s rise in coaching circles is similar to what happened with Chip Kelly when Kelly was at Oregon. But what made Kelly such a hot-name was how he used tempo to make the defense uncomfortable and creating difficult reads for defenses, leading to a lot of points. Riley has a similar but different style compared to Kelly. Riley simplifies his offense so his players can master everything they are being taught, thus they can play faster. But he disguises the plays differently, making it hard for defenses to get a read on what he is calling – via Breer.
"We’ve seen cartoonish numbers at the college level before, though. What’s separated Riley is the way he systemically and aggressively stresses defenses at every level, marries his passing game to his running game, and makes something that is simple enough to allow players to play at breakneck speed at the same time so complicated for opponents."
Not only is his offensive-brilliance leading him to become a hot coaching name, but his connection with Mayfield can not be denied. With Mayfield most likely becoming the Browns starting quarterback in 2019, having his old college coach may make him feel more comfortable.
But just because he was Mayfield’s coach does not mean he is the perfect guy for the job. Riley would have only two seasons of head coaching experience at the end of this season, which would be when the Browns would be talking to him about being a head coach. Because he has no NFL coaching experience, teams would likely want some more college head coaching experience from him.
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But ever since Sean McVay took the NFL by storm last season, every NFL team is trying to find the next McVay, a young and innovative coach. So even with the limited head coaching experience Riley has, he will be a NFL head coach sooner rather than later.