Lincoln Riley

Peter King On Riley, Murray, Haskins

Towards the end of the 2018 season, there was a lot of buzz surrounding Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and a potential jump to the pros. Ultimately, Riley opted to stay put with the Sooners.

Recently, Peter King of NBC Sports had the opportunity to catch up with Riley and ask him about the possibility of moving to the NFL at some point down the line.

I certainly wasn’t tempted at all this year. I would say right now it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I am a college lifer,” Riley said. “I think it’ll be interesting how a lot of things go on from here … if there’s a lot of changes in both games. Football is evolving; there’s a lot of changes obviously at the NFL level right now. There’s a lot of changes with all the transfers and recruiting and all the different things going on at the college level. You never know how those games are going to evolve. I might’ve been tempted honestly had I not been at a place like Oklahoma. But this is one of the best jobs there is in football. Like I’ve said before, I’ll never say never. I never want to promise things that I can’t 1,000% guarantee. It’s not something that really tempts me at all right now.”

After coaching Heisman Trophy winners in back-to-back seasons, Riley is certainly in a great position at Oklahoma. He also recently inked a lucrative extension with OU, so his comfort in Norman, Oklahoma is certainly understandable.

Here’s more from King:

  • There has been a lot of talk about Kyler Murray and his lack of bulk, but King hears the quarterback has bulked up to 206 pounds, a significant jump from his playing weight of 190 pounds at Oklahoma.His added size may give teams confidence that he’s ready to withstand bigger hits at the next level.
  • Murray and Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins are solid top 10 picks, based on what King is hearing. Meanwhile, King doesn’t put a lot of stock into the will-they-won’t-they talk about whether the QBs will throw at the combine. In King’s experience, he’s never heard post-draft chatter of a team executive having downgraded a QB because he did not throw at Indianapolis.
  • King gets the sense that the Rams are hoping that left tackle Andrew Whitworth will come back for one more season, even though he’ll earn a substantial $10.7MM in the final year of his three-year pact. Right now, the 37-year-old is wrestling with the idea of retirement, but the Rams could use his skill and experience, especially since the Rams could lose free agent left guard Rodger Saffold in March. Rising sophomore Joseph Noteboom could take over for Saffold, but the 2018 third-rounder may be forced to fill even bigger shoes at left tackle if Whitworth hangs ’em up.

Cardinals, Jets Expected To Interview Kliff Kingsbury

While the Lincoln Riley avenue appears closed for NFL teams, they continue to explore what a college-level offensive innovator could bring to the table.

The Cardinals and Jets are expected to meet with former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury about their head coach vacancies, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports.

Two other teams with HC openings said Kingsbury was on their radar but that no interviews were as of yet scheduled. The 39-year-old coach is also being monitored for NFL offensive coordinator jobs, Robinson adds. The Rams contacted Kingsbury about an assistant job late last year.

The Red Raiders fired Kingsbury after this season, but NFL teams took notice of the job he did leading the Big 12 program’s explosive offenses. Kingsbury brought both Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield to Lubbock, Texas, and steered the former to becoming a top-10 pick.

Kingsbury declined a chance to become the University of Houston’s head coach and is on USC’s staff as the program’s OC and quarterbacks coach. While Texas Tech only went 35-40 under Kingsbury, his offenses have obviously attracted NFL franchises — especially given the successes of younger, offensively oriented coaches in recent years. Case Keenum also set NCAA passing records under Kingsbury when they were at Houston together.

A former Red Raiders quarterback, Kingsbury was briefly on the Jets’ roster, in 2005, before transitioning to the CFL and then going into coaching. The Jets attempted to bring Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell in for an interview, but the Cyclones’ coach declined.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lincoln Riley Signs Extension To Stay At Oklahoma

The Lincoln Riley-to-NFL speculation stirred for several weeks, but on New Year’s Day, it will officially stop.

Riley agreed to an extension to stay at Oklahoma, keeping the 35-year-old offensive guru at the college level for the time being.

Amazingly 2-for-2 in coaching Heisman trophy winners in his two seasons succeeding Bob Stoops, Riley was connected to the Browns’ opening — largely because of what he did for Baker Mayfield‘s career in 2017. But he was loosely linked to other teams’ potential searches, as the demand for offensive innovation rapidly increases. Riley has won more games (24) in his first two seasons as a college head coach than anyone since Penn’s George Woodruff in the 1890s.

With Riley agreeing to an extension, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald again indicating he’s happy where he is and Matt Campbell having turned down a Jets interview request, the 2019 coaching carousel as of now features NFL-based candidates.

Lincoln Riley Says He Isn’t Leaving Oklahoma

It doesn’t sound like Lincoln Riley will be “going pro” anytime soon. The Oklahoma head coach told Howie Kussoy of the New York Post that he has no plans of joining the NFL.

“I can’t tell you how I’m gonna feel in 10 years, but no, not right now,” Riley said. “If I wasn’t at one of the elite programs in the country, maybe, but no, I’m very happy where I’m at right now.

“If it was 20, 30 years ago, where there were some major differences, maybe. … The way the college game has evolved, financially it’s a lot better situation now when you compare it to NFL teams. We’re at a place where we’re happy, and we don’t take that for granted. I love coaching at Oklahoma, love coaching college football.”

Riley’s name has continually been connected with potential head coaching vacancies, and the Oklahoma coach recently led a Yahoo! Sports list of collegiate coaches who could make the jump to the NFL. However, Riley has been adamant that he’s staying put, and he’s even told recruits that he’ll be sticking with Oklahoma.

“I was very upfront, said what I’ve said the 15 times I’ve been asked about it since,” Riley said. “I told them the truth. I told them I love where I’m at right now, and I don’t have that itch right now, and I fully plan on being at Oklahoma.”

Even if Riley wasn’t being entirely truthful, it’s not surprising that he’s rejecting the notion of joining the NFL. The Sooners are set to play in the College Football Playoff semifinals against Alabama on Saturday. Eliminating distractions is surely one of his top priorities, and definitively stating that he’s sticking with Oklahoma could only be perceived as a good thing.

Of course, even with his public statements, NFL teams will still be eyeing Riley this offseason. The 35-year-old has led Oklahoma to two straight CFP appearances, and he’s been touted for helping to develop quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Riley has a 24-3 record and a pair of Big 12 championships during his two seasons as head coach, and he served as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Sherman, Bortles, Lincoln Riley, Ravens

It won’t be this year or the next, but at some point before he calls it quits on a likely Hall of Fame career, cornerback Richard Sherman is likely to make the move to safety, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch writes.

The four-time First Team All-Pro selection is open to it at least, saying:

“It’s definitely something that I’ve looked at,” Sherman said. “And something that I’ve talked with (Charles Woodson) about.”

In the first of a three-year deal with the 49ers, Sherman still rates as an above average cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. Now in his 30s, however, the star defender is already looking to make a similar move that prolonged the careers of Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Aeneas Williams. Despite the move, don’t expect him to play into his late 30s.

“I think 35 is probably my cutoff,” Sherman said. “I don’t think I want to play … they’d have a hard time getting me out of bed at 35 to go play. I think I’ve got four or five more (years) in me.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • After his benching, Blake Bortles is unlikely to be back with the Jaguars next season, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes. With $6.5MM of Bortles’ $16.5MM contract next season guaranteed, the Jaguars can hope that some team signs him for $6.5MM — unlikely — or package him in a trade with a team that would be considering signing him, a la Brock Osweiler. The Jaguars will still have a cap charge of $10MM, but the team can push $5MM of that into 2020.
  • The Ravens did not activate cornerback Jaylen Hill from the PUP list, officially ending his season. Recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, Hill was unlikely to take the field after recently suffering a setback.
  • With the college game becoming more intertwined with the professional ranks, Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports listed 10 college coaches who could make the jump to the NFL. To no one’s surprise, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley was at the top of the heap thanks to his high-powered offense that produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Baker Mayfield, and potentially another in Kyler Murray. Other notable names on the list include Stanford’s David Shaw, former 49ers coach and current Michigan man Jim Harbaugh and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.

Extra Points: Cardinals, Wilks, Keim, Patriots, Brady, Browns, Dorsey, Riley

It’s been a rough year for the Cardinals and first year head coach Steve Wilks. The Cardinals have won just two games this season, and both of those wins came against the 49ers. They’ve been blown out on several occasions, and already had to fire offensive coordinator Mike McCoy in the middle of the season. That wasn’t the only drama, as star cornerback Patrick Peterson was also briefly demanding a trade. All the chaos and dysfunction have led many to speculate that Wilks and GM Steve Keim could both be in danger of losing their jobs.

While Wilks is in very real danger of being a one-and-done as head coach, his “job status is more tenuous than Keim’s” is, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. While he acknowledges Keim could be in some trouble too if the Cardinals continue to rack up losses, Somers thinks Keim will have a longer leash than Wilks because he has a past history of winning. That being said, the Cardinals haven’t been good in a few years now and it’s possible team president Michael Bidwill decides to clean house. Either way, it’s looking unlikely that Wilks is back in the desert for a second season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Tom Brady has been a bit banged up recently, causing an internet firestorm when he was absent from Patriots practice on Friday. Although Brady is dealing with an illness and a knee injury, he did officially travel with the team to New York and will suit up against the Jets tomorrow, a source told Jeff Howe of The Athletic (Twitter link). It doesn’t seem like Brady was ever in any real danger of missing the game, but it’ll be interesting to see if the knee injury or illness cause him to look less than 100 percent in a game New England needs to win.
  • As the college football season winds down, NFL Draft talk is starting to heat up, and many GM’s and front offices are making their final evaluations on players. Browns GM John Dorsey was at the West Virginia/Oklahoma game Friday night, as well as the Michigan/Ohio State game Saturday morning, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Interestingly, Kay Cabot says Dorsey wasn’t just scouting players at the game he was also scouting coaches, namely Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley. Riley coached Baker Mayfield in college, and has been a popular name in discussions about head coaching vacancies. Kay Cabot also notes that Jim Harbaugh, Michigan’s coach, could be another possibility for Dorsey.
  • In case you missed it, a top receiver prospect declared his intention to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

Cowboys Mulled Firing Scott Linehan During Bye Week; Latest On Jason Garrett

The Cowboys’ offense has been anemic all season long, and the unit ranks 26th in the league in points per game (19.3) and 27th in yards per game (317.1). Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was “thoroughly evaluated” at the end of the 2017 campaign, and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reiterated today that head coach Jason Garrett strongly considered moving on from Linehan at that time (video link).

And while Garrett elected to keep Linehan on board and went along with Linehan’s overhaul of the wide receivers room, Rapoport says Garrett again considered firing Linehan during the team’s bye week at the end of October. Indeed, Rapoport said that he thought Linehan was going to be shown the door, but Dallas reversed course and elected to fire offensive line coach Paul Alexander instead. But unless the 3-5 Cowboys are able to make a surge in the second half of the season, the entire coaching staff could be on its way out.

Indeed, Rapoport confirmed today that the Cowboys are not planning to fire Garrett before the end of the season, which we heard earlier this week. But his job security is tenuous at best, and if owner Jerry Jones ultimately decides to ax Garrett, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley is one name to keep an eye on. The Jones family is fond of Riley, who has also been mentioned as a potential candidate for the Browns’ head coaching job, so if Cleveland wants to reunite Baker Mayfield with his collegiate coach, it may have to battle Dallas, and perhaps other clubs, for the privilege.

In the interview with Rapoport linked above, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network briefly mentioned the possibility that Garrett could take control of offensive play-calling duties in an effort to save the Cowboys’ season and his job, but there does not appear to be anything concrete on that front at the moment.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Bell, Browns, Green, Cook

The Le’Veon Bell saga is coming to a head, as the Steelers running back must sign his franchise tender by November 13 to be eligible to play for any team this season. But as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, the CBA does not dictate that Bell must report by that day, only that he sign the tender. That means that Bell could sign the tender and not report until next Saturday, which would make him eligible to be added to the roster for next Sunday’s game — not that he would be playing in that game regardless — or he could just not sign the tender at all and skip the entire season.

The latter option is not considered likely at this time, but La Canfora says that if Bell does skip the entire 2018 campaign, the Steelers would strongly consider slapping the franchise or transition tag on him next offseason, which would of course set up another drama-filled battle. La Canfora further reports that no rival clubs called Pittsburgh at last week’s trade deadline in an attempt to acquire Bell.

Now for more the league’s North divisions:

  • When the Browns have hired a new head coach in recent seasons, they have used a search firm, but Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) says he would be surprised if the team, with respected GM John Dorsey now in charge, goes that route when it looks for another HC this offseason. Rapoport’s sources expect Dorsey to conduct the search himself, and they expect that he will do so very “secretly.” Rapoport says one name under consideration would be Josh McDaniels, who is reportedly open to revisiting HC opportunities (should another one come his way), and RapSheet also lists John DeFilippo, Mike McCarthy, and Lincoln Riley as potential targets.
  • Bengals WR A.J. Green is battling a toe injury, per Rapoport (via Twitter), who says that Green either has visited or will visit foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson. There will be more clarity on the injury soon, and Rapoport says surgery remains on the table. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that Green is expected to miss time regardless of whether he has surgery.
  • Vikings WR Stefon Diggs will miss today’s game with a rib injury, per Rapoport (video link), though it is uncertain whether Diggs will miss any additional time (given that he expected to play today and was listed as questionable on the final injury report, it seems that he’ll be ready to go after Minnesota’s bye next week. Meanwhile, RB Dalvin Cook is expected to hit the field today, which will mark his first appearance since Week 4. Cook will be on a pitch count and is only expected to see 20 snaps or so, but when the team returns from bye, it could have Cook and Diggs at full strength.
  • The Packers signed punter Drew Kaser yesterday, but the team is not moving on from incumbent J.K. Scott at this time, per ESPN.com. However, it is still an open question as to whether Scott will be punting against the Patriots tonight.
  • We learned earlier today that Ravens HC John Harbaugh is on the hot seat as the team faces a critical divisional matchup against Pittsburgh this afternoon.

Browns Fallout: Jackson, Staff, Mayfield

In firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, the Browns axed the top two voices behind their offense on Monday. This came after reports of friction between the two, accounts that turned out to be very real and ones that could’ve been envisioned for anyone who saw Hard Knocks.

The message today is we’re not going to put up with internal discord,” owner Jimmy Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. “… We had some concerns going into the game, obviously (Sunday’s) performance was disappointing. We had several of our key people involved in this conversations last night and this morning and did what we think’s best for the organization.”

Haslam said he met with John Dorsey on Sunday night, and actions came down Monday morning. Although Jackson went 1-31 in his first two seasons with the team, Haslam opted to give him a third year because the aggressive rebuild — put forth by former GM Sashi Brown — put Jackson in a “difficult spot” (Twitter link via Cabot). Gregg Williams was the only person the Browns considered to be the interim HC, Haslam said (per Nate Ulrich of ohio.com, on Twitter).

Some Browns began to question Jackson’s credibility, as a result of the third-year HC following through on his intent to give Haley autonomy to run the offense, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. After running the offense in 2016 and ’17, Jackson wasn’t nearly as involved this season. Jackson, in turn, was frustrated Haley would “do his own thing,” Breer adds. Jackson’s message grew stale as the losses mounted, per Yahoo’s Terez Paylor. This is obviously not uncommon for teams in losing situations, and that descriptor might not be strong enough to describe the state of the Browns under Haslam. The seventh-year owner’s now fired four head coaches, and the Browns have won more than five games just once under his watch.

Baker Mayfield‘s development shifts to front and center, and Breer notes the Jackson firing probably won’t bother the rookie quarterback much. They didn’t exactly see eye to eye, per Breer. Though, the No. 1 overall pick now has to finish a season without a proven offensive voice in the building and will have to learn a new offense in 2019.

Williams is technically still defensive coordinator, in addition to becoming a first-time head coach at age 60. But some around the league believe he will promote his son, Blake Williams, to that post, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Blake Williams has been Cleveland’s linebackers coach for two seasons.

As far as a possible Jackson/Williams successor, Breer points out Dorsey has “the highest respect” for what Iowa State coach Matt Campbell‘s done. Campbell, 38, is from the Cleveland area (Massillon, Ohio) as well. While Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley may well get a look, since he’d be a natural fit given his mentoring of Mayfield with the Sooners, he doesn’t envision leaving Oklahoma (video link). Gregg Williams will also be a candidate for the full-time job, Haslam said (via Cabot, on Twitter). But such a scenario would be hard to envision.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Manning, Giants, Cowboys, Packers, Redskins

Plenty of people criticized the Giants’ decision to take Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick. While Barkley has been electric, many people thought the opportunity to take one of this year’s class of quarterback prospects was too good to pass up. Eli Manning has struggled mightily this year, and the Giants now have no clear succession plan. Despite not drafting a quarterback early this year, New York “believed that somehow, some way, they’d find their heir apparent somewhere down the line”, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

Now that they might have to find that heir apparent earlier than expected, Vacchiano went through all the Giants’ options to find a quarterback of the future, including a trade before the deadline this year, free agency, and the draft. They have fourth round rookie Kyle Lauletta on the roster, and Vacchiano writes they must “absolutely take a look at him in a game this year.” One way or another, it looks like Manning’s days as the Giants’ starter are numbered.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • There’s been growing frustration with Jason Garrett as coach of the Cowboys, especially after his decision to punt the ball away on 4th & 1 in overtime last week. While owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen have insisted, Garret’s job isn’t in danger, “there’s been buzz in league circles indicating that the Joneses may eventually set their sights on Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley”, according to Albert Breer of SI.com.
  • Aaron Rodgers recently suffered a setback with his injured knee, but is looking to avoid going back to the bulky brace he had to wear initially, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN. Rodgers re-injured the knee on a hit he took early in the Packers’ loss to the Lions last week. The game against Detroit was his first game without the large brace that made it harder for him to move around.
  • Josh Norman was benched to start the second half of the Redskins’ loss to the Saints on Monday night, and it apparently wasn’t about his play. “It was definitely something between Gruden and Norman that got a little heated and definitely not because of him getting beat in coverage”, according to John Keim of ESPN (Twitter link). Apparently Norman and coach Jay Gruden got into an altercation at halftime, and this will be an interesting situation to monitor going forward.