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Take Two: Will Lincoln Riley leave Oklahoma for the NFL?

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Lincoln Riley
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Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling an issue in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.

THE STORYLINE

Lincoln Riley is only 35 years old and he’s in his second season as head coach at Oklahoma but his name is already being thrown around for NFL job openings, with the Cleveland Browns taking center stage.

In many ways, it could make sense. The Browns fired coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Monday ramping up the Riley speculation even more. Riley is a brilliant offensive mind who runs a system that intrigues NFL teams. During the run-up to the NFL Draft in April, analyst Mike Mayock said nearly every pro team sent representatives to Norman to study Riley’s offensive system.

That style of offense is becoming more prevalent in the NFL, so why not try to get the guy who knows more about it than anybody else? And if you’re the Cleveland Browns, why not try to lure Riley there, to coach No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, who knows the offense as well and could incorporate it into a franchise that needs help offensively alongside a solid, young defense?

Riley was asked about his NFL pursuits at a media opportunity on Monday. His response: "Not right now. I love Oklahoma. I love college football. I certainly don't have that itch right now ... Right now, I could (not) care less about the NFL. Right now we're trying to win this game and make a run."

As expected. Riley is savvy enough to not say much else. But after this season, when the Browns are making a run at him and the 35-year-old looks at his future, does he see it in Norman or in the NFL?

FIRST TAKE: CAREY MURDOCK, SOONERSCOOP.COM

“It's difficult to gauge how much interest Lincoln Riley has in the NFL. He's a guy who grew up in the culture of Texas Tech and the Air Raid. But he's even broken away from that a bit through a running game that he's admitted Mike Leach doesn't care for. He's good at recruiting and it doesn't seem to be a chore to him. Lincoln isn't just smart offensively, he's also pretty good at judging his surroundings.

"If he stays in college, his value is concrete. He's not a flash in the pan. He's the rising star of the game. If he goes to the NFL is he more of a sideshow? Kind of how Chip Kelly was treated with the Eagles? Sean McVay is a product of the NFL and even though he's young and the toast of the league, he's still a product of the league. There's no sideshow stigma there. I'd be very surprised if Riley seriously entertains the NFL at this point in time. Right now his value as a college coach is substantial and this is the first year he's been paid like an elite coach.”

SECOND TAKE: MIKE FARRELL, RIVALS.COM

“He could go. There is so much money to be thrown around there at the NFL level, guaranteed money, that he could be a guy that jumps. Bill O’Brien did it. Riley reminds me a little of him as an offensive coach, as an offensive mind, and a guy who stepped into a situation after there was a long-term, legendary coach that you’re trying to live up to.

“If you look at O’Brien and what he did at Penn State – and he jumped to the NFL and he’s having success there – I could see Riley doing the same thing. I’m not saying he’s going to but it’s certainly going to be a temptation, especially with all the money they can throw at him. Cleveland is a natural fit with Mayfield being there. The Browns are very sound defensively. They just need help offensively and he’s a very good offensive mind.”