CBS Sports insider Jason La Canfora has been a busy man today. He reports this evening that the Browns have interest surrounding two college head coaches in Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin.
Malzahn’s Tigers are playing in the title game next week in his first season as head coach at Auburn. The 48-year-old was previously offensive coordinator there for three seasons, including the 2010 season when Cam Newton led the team to the National Championship. Malzahn’s specialty is an up-tempo no-huddle style of offense, about which he’s written a book. It would seem to be an attempt at capturing some of what they missed out on last offseason when Chip Kelly went from Oregon to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Franklin, 41, has been the head man at Vanderbilt for the past three seasons, taking them to bowl games in all three seasons when the school had never made back-to-back bowl appearances previously. He also has stops as offensive coordinator at Maryland and Kansas State as well as one season in the NFL as wide receivers coach in Green Bay in 2005. Interviewing Franklin would satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule.
La Canfora adds:
“It’s worth noting how well former Oregon coach Chip Kelly has performed in Philadelphia — Kelly and Penn State’s Bill O’Brien were top candidates in Cleveland a year ago — and how much that has resonated with the Browns, particularly with them now very much interested in some college candidates.
Furthermore, McDaniels, Malzahn, Franklin and Schwartz are all represented by agent Jimmy Sexton, a very powerful force in coaching circles who has strong ties to the Browns organization.”
Schwartz was the Lions’ head coach for the past four seasons, accruing a record of 29-47 with one playoff loss. Prior to that, he spent eight seasons as the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator and was a personnel scout with the Browns from 1993-95. It’s interesting that the Browns would have a defensive coordinator already picked out. The front office stressed the importance of having experienced and well-respected coordinators for a first-time NFL head coach last season when they hired Chudzinski, so perhaps that would be a recurring theme if they dip into the college ranks. Schwartz is another 4-3 defensive guy, which would prompt the Browns’ fourth flip between a 3-4 and 4-3 defense since 2009.
The Browns have been reportedly interested in a large number of candidates, including Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. They fired coach Rob Chudzinski on Sunday night after just one 4-12 seasons.