NFL Head Coach Rumors: Malzahn Top Candidate? Lions, Browns, Vikings, Redskins Vetting In Early Stage Of Search

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Gus Malzahn Auburn
Auburn's Gus Malzahn has emerged as a top candidates for the Cleveland Browns head coaching vacancy as he preps his team for next week's national championship game.

Two jobs have already been filled, but four NFL head coaching jobs remain available just three days after Black Monday.

The Houston Texans took their time after letting Gary Kubiak go on Dec. 6, and according to NFL.com used that time to carefully pluck Bill O’Brien from Penn State just before New Year’s Day.

And the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought Lovie Smith back into the NFL fold after a year away from the game. Smith was let go by the Chicago Bears after barely missing the playoffs last season, and returns to a Buccaneers organization that gave him his first NFL job as linebackers coach under Tony Dungy from 1996 to 2001.

That leaves Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota, and Washington as the remaining vacancies around the league, with several top candidates from the pro and college levels tied to all four jobs.

There could be another opening, but as of now, the Tennessee Titans are still deliberating over Mike Munchak’s fate.

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Detroit Lions

Detroit was also interested in Smith, but clearly lost out. The Lions were also reportedly expected to vet Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Tom Cable, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

Whisenhunt, formerly head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and offensive coordinator for Pittsburgh, may even be in the lead, as NFL.com reports the Lions are checking the 51-year-old’s references. In one season, Whisenhunt turned the Chargers offense around from 31st in the league in 2012 to fifth overall and a playoff berth.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns have had four head coaches in the last eight years, with just one lasting more than two seasons. The franchise’s new ownership group is apparently giving little latitude, with Rob Chudzinkski surprisingly let go after one year.

According to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns top target is New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, former head coach of the Denver Broncos and the man responsible for making Tim Tebow a first-round pick in 2010.

CBS Sports’s Jason La Canfora also reported that Cleveland would like to interview Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. Malzahn still has to coach the Tigers in next week’s national championship game, but has reportedly shot up the Browns list.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will reportedly meet with Cleveland on Friday.

Washington Redskins

The messy, media cloak-and-dagger divorce from Mike Shanahan is finally over, and the Redskins have reportedly set up an interview with the Ravens' Caldwell next week, as reported by the Washington Post.

Using an outside group that promotes diversity in hiring, the Redskins are also considering Cincinnati Bengals running backs coach and former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson.

Washington already sat down with Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. They are also scheduled to meet with Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott on Saturday, according to the Post.

Minnesota Vikings

Bowles is also on the short list of coaches to replace Leslie Frazier, but the Vikings search might be stalled by former punter Chris Kluwe’s accusations in a piece published by Deadspin on Thursday. Kluwe accused Frazier, general manager Rick Spielman, and special teams coach Mike Priefer of essentially cutting him for his activism, specifically for his support of same-sex marriage.

The Vikings released a statement later on Thursday, and said they will thoroughly review the matter.

Filled

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Lovie Smith)

Houston Texans (Bill O’Brien)

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