With everyone looking for the next young, creative mind to lead their NFL team, get ready to hear Lincoln Riley’s name a lot over the next couple months.
Riley is 35 years old and has done a remarkable job at Oklahoma. He coached Baker Mayfield to a Heisman Trophy, and Mayfield’s replacement Kyler Murray is probably going to finish in at least the top two this season. Riley is viewed as a great offensive mind. NFL teams have reportedly gone to Norman to ask him about his schemes.
Riley has said he loves coaching at Oklahoma and he’s not thinking about the NFL “right now,” but what else could he really say? We’ll see once teams start calling.
And between now and then, there will be endless speculation about Riley and the Browns, due to Mayfield. Mayfield says he hasn’t lobbied Riley, but he does think he’d fit in the NFL.
Baker Mayfield thinks Lincoln Riley would be ready for NFL
Mayfield is in a tough position. He’s a rookie. If the Packers say Aaron Rodgers won’t be involved in their coaching search, you can bet nobody in Cleveland is going to ask Mayfield to be involved in that process.
Yet, Mayfield is going to be asked about Riley. It wouldn’t be surprising if he did want Riley to come coach him in Cleveland. But he’s putting himself in a bad spot if he lobbies for the Browns to hire Riley.
“He’s been great and we had success, but whatever decision is made here I’m going to make the most of it,” Mayfield said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
But what Mayfield said about Riley being ready for the NFL will resonate, and maybe not just in Cleveland.
“Lincoln’s been ready, it’s just who he is and how he coaches and the respect level he’s had from all of his players, how detailed he is,’’ Mayfield said. “Yeah, he’s ready but that’s his decision and you know what, he’s got something special there so I don’t think anybody is going to blame him if he stays there for the next 20 years.”
Riley will be a hot name
Riley will be a very interesting name in the NFL coaching carousel. Maybe he never leaves Oklahoma. He has a great program there. But perhaps he wants the challenge, and it’s never bad to strike while your reputation is as high as Riley’s is at the moment.
Riley is more interesting than most candidates because he would be outside of the NFL norm. Many NFL pundits often will reject anything out of the norm. Chip Kelly had his issues, but many people were against him the moment he was hired from the University of Oregon. Because Riley is young, has a short track record as a head coach (he’s 35 years old, so that’s not really his fault) and no NFL experience, there will be plenty of skepticism. Expect to read and hear many people who will be waiting impatiently for him to fail, if he does decide to make the jump.
But the league is looking for its next Sean McVay/Matt Nagy/Kyle Shanahan/Frank Reich-type coach, who can be at the forefront of the offensive revolution. Maybe Riley is the next NFL coaching star. Mayfield thinks he’s ready for the challenge.
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