With seven NFL teams looking to fill coaching vacancies in their organizations, the interview and hiring process figures to fly by at Usain Bolt-like speed for the top candidates on the market. The Cleveland Browns have apparently already made a move on the hunt for Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien.
As first reported by Cleveland Plain dealer Browns beat reporter Mary Kay Cabot (via Twitter), the Browns have already interviewed O'Brien this week. According to Pro Football Talk, NFL teams are not required to announce which candidates they have interviewed to the media, but interviews for some of the bigger names on the market rarely go by unnoticed for long.
As Pro Football Talk suggests, college coaches often prefer their interviews to fly under the radar as much as possible in order to not spread around to high school players who are now just weeks away from national signing day. Next week a handful of Class of 2013 recruits are expected to enroll early, including prized in-state tight end Adam Breneman and junior college quarterback transfer Tyler Ferguson.
The Browns are also preparing to interview Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who was preparing to coach Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State Thursday night. An interview with Syracuse's Doug Marone, a good friend of O'Brien's has also been conducted according to reports. Many beat reporters surrounding Cleveland and the Philadelphia Eagles have hinted O'Brien is among the top candidates for the job of head coach with the Philadelphia Eagles as well.
O'Brien remains an attractive candidate for NFL teams given his work as an assistant coach under New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. His offensive philosophy blends well in the NFL and revitalized Penn State in 2012 faster than expected.
O'Brien's contract though has a buyout reported to be between $9 and $19 million, depending on the source. The high price tag is widely regarded to be a deterrent that could end up keeping O'Brien in State College for 2013 regardless, but it is now clear O'Brien is doing more than thinking about evaluating all of his options moving forward.
UPDATE: According to Sports Illustrated, Penn State is in the process of making a strong push to ensure O'Brien sticks with the program.