No, Sooner Nation, you will not be allowed to bask in the glow of the stunning upset of Alabama without a coaching cloud hanging overhead.
During Oklahoma’s 45-31 Sugar Bowl win over the Tide, St. Louis Rams sideline reporter and ESPN Radio personality Tony Softli tweeted that “Bob Stoops may have the inside track on the Cleveland Browns opening.” Prior to becoming a member of the media, Softli served in NFL front offices with the Rams as well as the Carolina Panthers.
Standing alone, Softli’s tweet wouldn’t normally merit much attention. However, it comes on the heels of a report from NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport earlier in the week which stated Stoops “has expressed some interest in joining the NFL” and that the OU coach should be added to “the list of college coaches that could be candidates for NFL coaching jobs.”
The 53-year-old Stoops, who was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, and maintains strong family ties to the area, has never coached in the NFL, spending all 31 years of his coaching career at the collegiate level. During previous coach searches by the Cleveland Browns — and there have been myriad over the past decade and a half — Stoops has been mentioned as a possibility but the rumored interest never materialized into anything noteworthy.
Stoops’ agent, for what it’s worth, is Neil Cornrich, who is based in, of all places, Cleveland, Ohio.
In July of last year, OU announced it had reached an agreement on a new contract with Stoops that could technically keep him in Norman through the 2020 season. Stoops earned just under $4.8 million in 2013, making him the fifth-highest paid college coach according to USA Today‘s database. Any buyout language contained in Stoops’ contract would not be an issue for any NFL club looking to pry him away from the college game if he were so inclined.
Earlier this week, it was reported that the Browns are “very interested” in Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin as their new head coach. Late last year, the Browns interviewed Syracuse’s Doug Marrone, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Oregon’s Chip Kelly for their vacancy before settling on Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after just one year late last month.