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By Tom Withers | Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- The Browns may be interested in hiring a college coach. Bob Stoops, though, isn't the one.
A person with direct knowledge of Cleveland's ongoing coaching search told The Associated Press that the Browns will not interview Oklahoma's coach, who has deep Ohio roots.
After his Sooners stunned Alabama in the Sugar Bowl last week, Stoops did nothing to dispel a report that said he had the "inside track" for the Browns' job. But the person who spoke to the AP on Monday said the team is not pursuing him and that any reports saying so are "false." The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search.
Stoops said "you never know" when asked about the possibility of one day coaching in the NFL.
Stoops' vague remarks fueled speculation about Cleveland's coaching vacancy. Stoops is from Youngstown and has been linked to the Browns in the past.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are in the second week of their search after firing Rob Chudzinski, who went 4-12 in his first and only season with Cleveland.
The team has interviewed several candidates, including New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Cleveland has also asked for permission to meet with Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who declined the chance to meet with the Browns or Minnesota Vikings because he didn't want to be a distraction during the Broncos' playoff preparations.
"I told both teams that were interested in me that I appreciated it and I was going to wait until after our season had concluded," Gase said. "They were great about it. They said they appreciated me being up front and honest about it, and I thought that was the best decision for what we are trying to accomplish with our team."
If the Browns want to hire McDaniels, Quinn or Gase, they will have to wait until their teams are no longer in the playoffs. That could mean holding off until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
McDaniels confirmed his interview with the Browns during a conference call Monday, but said his focus is on preparing for Saturday's playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts.
"We met and that's about all there is at this point, nothing further," he said.
Cleveland is reportedly interested in speaking with Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt's James Franklin.
The Browns are not commenting on interviews during the search for their seventh full-time coach since 1999.
Last week, Haslam said he was not putting a timeframe on finding his second coach since buying the team in 2012. Haslam interviewed several college coaches during last year's search, including former Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Syracuse's Doug Marrone.