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pros and cons of potential Browns coaching candidate

One of the names that has continually cropped up for the Cleveland Browns upcoming coaching search has been current Oklahoma head coach, Lincoln Riley. Touted for his creative offense and his player-coach relationships, Riley has had a meteoric rise since his arrival in Norman.

Riley was a quarterback and walk-on at Texas Tech back in 2002. His playing days didn’t last long and he became a student assistant under then head coach Mike Leach. He stayed on staff as a graduate assistant and worked as the wide receivers coach until Leach’s firing in 2009. Riley moved on and in 2010, he took the job as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at East Carolina University. He served in that position through 2013 and had the additional title of assistant head coach in 2014.

In 2015, Riley went to Oklahoma as the offensive coordinator under then head coach, Bob Stoops. In his first season, Riley took his team to the College Football Playoff and the Sooners ended the season ranked 3rd.

Riley didn’t shut down the possibility of coaching in the NFL last week when he said he wasn’t interested “right now.” Pair that with the opportunity for Riley to link back up with his Heisman winning quarterback Baker Mayfield and you’ve created some serious buzz. The two text on a regular basis and Mayfield has looked to Riley for support and guidance in the wake of Hue Jackson’s firing.

There are arguments to be made for and against the Browns hiring Riley. Starting with the obvious, Riley’s relationship with the franchise QB is strong. Riley, who already created an offense tailor-made for Mayfield, could attempt to bring that system to the NFL.

Another positive for Riley is the success he has already had and his reputation. He was so well admired by Bob Stoops that he retired in a fashion that gifted Riley the Oklahoma job. Those in Norman were worried about the young coach, but he impressed early and often.

There are also some things to be worried about with Riley. His inexperience is the biggest issue; he is currently in the midst of his second ever season as a head coach. Although no fault of his own, college coaches haven’t always had success in the NFL. Nick Saban’s time with the Miami Dolphins was short-lived and he hightailed it back to college after just two seasons with little success.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Pete Carroll has won a Super Bowl, though it wasn’t his first stint as a head coach in the NFL. Riley isn’t either of those two, but the transition from college to the NFL isn’t an easy one to make. Both Saban and Carroll spent time prior to getting their head coaching jobs, something Riley has not done.

The prospect of Riley being the head coach for the Browns is exciting. He could be the perfect man to help Mayfield develop. Yet, his inexperience as a head coach is cause for worry. Also having zero experience in the NFL at all is reason for pause.

Riley has already done well as a trusted assistant and taking over successfully on the fly. The possibility of bringing him on as the offensive coordinator with someone like Bruce Arians and having an understanding that he would take the position when Arians retires could be perfect. Although, if Arians were to get the nod, it is unlikely that he would demote Freddie Kitchens as the two worked together in Arizona.

Again, the inexperience in the NFL doesn’t bode well for Riley and he seems comfortable where he is now. It seems unlikely that the Browns would hire him as a head coach at this point in time, despite the excitement and buzz he brings.

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