Iowa State coach Matt Campbell is being talked about in numerous NFL front offices as a potential head-coaching candidate, league sources said, with the Browns among them. Campbell is an Oho native who coached previously at Toledo and grew up a Browns fan, and he has earned a strong reputation among NFL scouts and evaluators who have scouted his players over the years.
Campbell, who turns 39 this week, is seen as a natural leader who knows how to delegate responsibility, and he is easy to get along with and very organized, according to many NFL personnel who have interacted with him over the years. Browns general manager John Dorsey, looking for someone stable who can relate to his young and emerging team in the aftermath of the Hue Jackson drama, hit a home run by drafting running back Kareem Hunt out of Toledo when Campbell was still there and Dorsey was with the Chiefs, and Campbell is definitely seen as a star on the rise.
It remains to be seen if Campbell will be open to listening to NFL overtures, but he is very much on the radar of teams and headhunters. There could be upwards of eight NFL openings and, at this preliminary stage, the one Campbell’s name is most connected to is the Browns (watch them take on the Bengals at 1 p.m. ET on CBS, stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free). Campbell comes from an Ohio coaching family. His father was head coach at Massillon Jackson High School, and Campbell’s roots in the state run deep.
He coached at Bowling Green to begin his career and had overtures from the New England Patriots and Ohio State as a young coach to join their staff, but he chose to build the program at Toledo, where he served as an offensive coordinator and interim coach before leading the program from 2012-2015. He has been at Iowa State since, turning that dormant program into a competitive force in the Big 12.
“I like him a lot,” said one NFL exec who has gotten to know Campbell over the years from being on campus to evaluate his players. “He has the personality for it. He’s been highly productive. I can see why he would appeal to NFL teams. He is definitely generating a buzz.”
Most of the more well known and coveted college coaches are expected to stay put (David Shaw at Stanford, for example), while Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley is also expected to garner interest from NFL teams. There could be eight or more head-coaching vacancies this season in the NFL, and with a whittled-down pool of highly-sought coordinators in the pro ranks, and a recent trend toward younger first-time head coaches, Campbell should have some interesting decisions to make in the coming weeks.