Here we go again?
Throughout a sizable portion of Bob Stoops‘ time at Oklahoma, there was considerable speculation that the head coach could be poached by the NFL. In fact, after his surprise retirement in the summer of 2017, reports surfaced (again) that the future College Football Hall of Famer had been very interested and/or intrigued by the Cleveland Browns job in 2014.
Stoops’ replacement, Lincoln Riley, guided the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and a College Football Playoff appearance in his first season at the helm in Norman. In the centerpiece of his Monday Morning Quarterback piece this week, Albert Breer explains how “[t]he Oklahoma coach’s schemes and coaching style have impressed the NFL — which is why plenty of folks around the league have been visiting Norman this offseason.”
That, naturally, has led to some chatter already that the 34-year-old Riley — he’ll turn 35 in September — could very quickly find himself on the NFL’s head-coaching radar. In the piece, Breer broached that very subject with Riley, who gave the definitive non-answer answer in tiptoeing around the subject.
“Hard to say, it would be really difficult to ever leave this place,” Riley said when asked if he has an interest in coaching in the NFL. “This place is very invested in me and my family. They gave me a great opportunity, and I think this is one of the best if not the very best job in all of football. So I don’t know. I really, really enjoy the college game.
“I don’t know that you can ever say never. I don’t know what the future will hold. But yeah … it’s hard to see myself ever leaving Oklahoma right now.”
The 2017 season was Riley’s first-ever as a head coach at any level of football. Riley, who was a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech, began his coaching career under Mike Leach as a student assistant at his alma mater in 2003 before ultimately landing his first offensive coordinator position at East Carolina in 2010 at the tender age of 26. Prior to taking over for Stoops at OU, he served as the Sooners’ coordinator and quarterbacks coach for two seasons.
Given that rapid ascension up the coaching ladder, and given how the NFL has finally warmed up over the past few years to some of the concepts college football has to offer, it would be a surprise if Riley’s name isn’t attached to the NFL’s version of the coaching rumor mill moving forward.