If you have paid any attention to The OBR over the past couple of weeks, it comes as no surprise that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's name is being mentioned both locally and nationally as a candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant Michigan State job.
In our never-ending quest to stay ahead of the "real" media curve, we've uncovered a few more nuggets involving Grantham, including one fairly influential person who is pushing for the fiery coordinator to replace dead-man-coaching John L. Smith.
According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, several members of the Spartans athletic and academic community--including those who will make up a portion of the unofficial search committee--have spoken with current Dolphins and former MSU head coach Nick Saban regarding Grantham.
And, per the sources, Saban was nothing short of glowing in his praise for his former assistant.
"(Saban) is telling anyone who will listen that (Grantham) is the right man for the job. He really believes that he's ready to make the jump to head coach," the source said. "(Saban) is very high on (Grantham) as a person and as a coach, and will use whatever ounce of pull he still has with the university to help him get the job."
Saban's sell job on Grantham is evidently working as, according to both sources, Grantham would have to be considered the early frontrunner for the job over the likes of Philadelphia Eagles QB coach Pat Shurmur and LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pellini. The backing of Saban is a "tremendous advantage" for Grantham.
However, one source cautioned, it's still very early in the process.
"There is no timetable (for finding a replacement for Smith) so things could always change, but right now Todd would have to like his chances if he wants the job," one source said.
There has been no official contact between Grantham or anyone connected with the coach, but back-channel communication has been established and is ongoing. Nor have the Browns received any word of the university's desire to speak to Grantham during the season.
While not a prerequisite or an issue of tampering--as would be the case if another NFL team were involved--most universities looking at a head-coaching candidate from the NFL ranks during the season will give the club the courtesy of a "asking for permission" phone call.
A Browns source has told The OBR that "in no way, shape or form would this organization attempt to prevent Todd from seeing his dream of becoming a head coach happen. He'd be missed if it were to happen, but it's something he deserves."
Grantham served under Saban for three seasons in East Lansing, first as a defensive line coach and then as the club's defensive coordinator in his final year with the Spartans.
Here are the new year-by-year salaries of wide receiver/kick returner Joshua Cribbs, who signed a six-year contract extension with the Browns this past Friday:
2007 - $435,000
2008 - $520,000
2009 - $620,000
2010 - $635,000
2011 - $650,000
2012 - $790,000
Cribbs, who would have been an exclusive rights free agent this coming off-season, has a 2006 salary of $350,000.
Members of both the league front office and high-ranking members of the Buccaneers organization are pushing for a Browns-Bucs regular- or pre-season game in England as early as next season, a league-office source has told The OBR.
In October, the NFL officially announced that, starting in 2007, up to two regular-season games per season will be played outside of the United States. One stipulation of the agreement, which was unanimously approved by all 32 ownership groups, is that for the foreseeable future, games outside of this country will be limited to sites in Mexico, Canada, England and Germany.
The third country of that grouping is where the Browns come in.
Earlier this year, Browns owner Randy Lerner became the second American owner of an English premier league football club when he purchased Aston Villa. The first American owner was Malcolm Glazer, who purchased the storied Manchester United club in 2005. Glazer, of course, owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is believed to be the impetus behind the push for a game with the Cleveland Browns in England.
While the game has the backing of a few key players in the process, the source said, it's likely the league will be looking to send the more "marquee" franchises to represent the league in the beginning stages of this over-seas promotion of the game.