July 28, 2014

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Stoops stays mum on interest in NFL

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops wouldn’t say if he’d been contacted by the Browns about their coaching vacancy and didn’t rule out leaving for the NFL during an appearance Friday on “The Dan Patrick Show.”

“I never acknowledge or deny whether anybody’s contacted me or not,” Stoops said. “It’s something publicly I don’t do one way or the other.”

He was then asked if he’s interested at some point in making the jump to the NFL.

“You never know what’ll come your way,” Stoops said after hemming and hawing. “In life, things change from year to year. Right now, I love what I’m doing. Right now, it’s something I’m not looking to pursue. You never know down the road.”

Tony Softli, sideline reporter for the Rams Radio Network, tweeted Thursday night that Stoops was a candidate to replace fired coach Rob Chudzinski.

“OU Head Coach and Ohio native Bob Stoops may have the inside track on the Cleveland Browns opening,” tweeted Softli, who has worked in the front office for the Panthers and Rams.

Stoops is a Youngstown native and graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1978. He’s 160-39 in 15 years as coach of Oklahoma, surpassing Barry Switzer this season for most wins in school history.

Another Ohio native with a history in Youngstown and a national championship was connected to the Browns’ job, but only momentarily.

Akron’s Fox Sports 1350 reported former Youngstown State and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel would interview with Cleveland within the next few days, but a league source said the report was false.

Whether Stoops is a legitimate candidate remains to be seen. The Browns aren’t commenting on the search.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported early in the week that Stoops had interest in making the move to the NFL. That was before Softli linked him to the Browns and he upset Nick Saban and third-ranked Alabama on Thursday night in the Sugar Bowl.

The Sooners were 16-point underdogs, yet beat the Crimson Tide 45-31 as Stoops became the first coach to win all four BCS bowl games — Orange, Rose, Fiesta and Sugar. Stoops is 8-7 in bowl games with Oklahoma, which went 11-2 this season.

Stoops, who comes from a coaching family, has no NFL experience in a career that began in 1983 as a graduate assistant at Iowa, his alma mater. He made stops at Kent State (1988-89), Kansas State and Florida (defensive coordinator/assistant head coach under Steve Spurrier from 1996-98) before making the move to Oklahoma.

Stoops has taken the Sooners to four appearances in the national title game and won it in 2000. He has led the Sooners to a school-record 15 straight bowl berths, eight Big 12 titles and 12 seasons with at least 10 wins.

Oklahoma has had 65 players drafted by the NFL under Stoops, including 13 first-rounders.

The Browns were reportedly scheduled to interview Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles Friday in Cleveland. According to reports, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is set to interview today and is still considered the favorite by many. Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn interviewed Wednesday.

A fan favorite can be crossed off the list. CBS broadcaster and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher was interviewed Friday morning and didn’t sound like he’s headed back to the sidelines.

“I’ve never closed the door,” Cowher told “CBS This Morning.” “But it’s highly unlikely any time in the near future you’ll see me coach.”

Fantastic five

The Browns (4-12) tied for the NFL lead with five players selected to the Associated Press All-Pro team. Receiver Josh Gordon and left tackle Joe Thomas made the first team, with cornerback Joe Haden, center Alex Mack and safety T.J. Ward on the second team.

The All-Pro team is chosen by a national panel of 50 media members. Kansas City and San Francisco also had five players picked.

The Browns tied a franchise record from 1953, when Len Ford, Frank Gatski, Otto Graham, Lou Groza and Bill Wills — all Hall of Famers — were named to the All-Pro team.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.