Sandwiched between his standard Sunday morning tweets detailing player injuries and contract negotiations, ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped the most surprising and bizarre NFL story in recent memory. The league insider reports that the Cleveland Browns front office wants to interview former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to be the team’s head coach. According to an anonymous Browns source: “She’s an amazing person.” That’s the only direct quote in the entire story. This must be what a collective hallucination feels like.
Shortly after Schefter published his report, Browns general manager John Dorsey tempered things a bit, though he didn’t slam the door on the possibility that Rice will one day patrol the Cleveland sidelines in a headset.
In other words, Cleveland’s interest in Rice is a known unknown.
Due to the highly specialized nature of the job, NFL teams usually stick to familiar names when it comes time to fill the head coaching position. The carousel is so compact, it’s a surprise when organizations interview someone from the college game, let alone a former cabinet secretary whose operational football experience is limited to being a part of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Rice has occasionally been brought up as a potential NFL commissioner, a role that she’s reasonably well qualified for given that the main requirement is placating rich and powerful people. With regards to a head coaching gig, Schefter writes that a “potential interview hardly means the Browns will hire Rice, but they are interested in talking to her about the job and seeing what she could bring to the position and the organization.” The interview alone would be history-making, as she would be the first woman considered for an NFL head coaching job.
Cleveland fired former head coach Hue Jackson in October, but only after allowing him to lead the team to a 3-36-1 record since 2016. The current interim head coach is Gregg Williams, who is more aggro than Dick Cheney and is most famous for his role as the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator in the “Bountygate” scandal, which involved paying players to injure opponents. (The NFL suspended Williams indefinitely in 2012; he returned to the league the following year.) The Cleveland front office is accustomed to prolonged failures and ethically compromised officials, so a member of the George W. Bush administration would in some ways be a natural fit.