One FBS program has already lost its head coach to the professional ranks. Now, it could be an SEC school that’s forced to initiate its own search for a replacement. Reportedly.
Wednesday morning, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reported that the Cleveland Browns are “very interested” in Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin as it conducts yet another search for a head coach. The Browns also reportedly had an interest in Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, who is leaving the Nittany Lions to take the Houston Texans job.
Late last year, the Browns had interviewed O’Brien and Oregon’s Chip Kelly for their vacancy before settling on Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after just one year.
In this latest spinning of the coaching carousel, Franklin has also been mentioned in connection to the Minnesota Vikings opening. Since late September, Franklin has seen his name tied to openings at USC and Texas; with O’Brien gone, Franklin is being rumored as a possibility at Penn State as well.
This is the first time that Malzahn, who will lead the Tigers into the BCS title game Monday night, has been tied to an NFL job. Earlier this month, Malzahn was given a raise and a contract extension after leading AU to an 11-win season coming off just three wins in 2012.
La Canfora wrote that the Browns “are doing arduous legwork on Malzahn and Franklin, and are very intrigued by them,” adding that “Malzahn is actually the most likely of the group to land the position, though the process is still very much in its early stages.”
The writer also makes note of the fact that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a University of Tennessee alum and a prominent UT booster. And, for what it’s worth, both Malzahn and Franklin are represented by super-agent Jimmy Sexton.