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Condoleezza Rice and Browns deny ESPN report that team wants to interview her for head coach

Condoleezza Rice is a lifelong Browns fan. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)

Condoleezza Rice and Cleveland Browns General Manager John Dorsey shot down the day’s most surprising NFL report, that the team wanted to make the former U.S. Secretary of State and national security adviser the first woman to interview for a head coaching position.

Rice, a lifelong Browns fan, used the buzz generated by the report, from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, to call for an increase in the number of women in the coaching ranks. “I love my Browns — and I know they will hire an experienced coach to take us to the next level,” she wrote (via the Associated Press).

"On a more serious note, I do hope that the NFL will start to bring women into the coaching profession as position coaches and eventually coordinators and head coaches. One doesn’t have to play the game to understand it and motivate players. But experience counts — and it is time to develop a pool of experienced women coaches.

“BTW, I’m not ready to coach, but I would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas! And at no time will I call for a ‘prevent defense’!”

Dorsey added that Rice “has not been discussed” as a candidate to succeed Hue Jackson.

“Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a great leader, possesses the highest possible character and also happens to be a Browns fan,” Dorsey said in a statement released by the team. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for all she’s accomplished and was honored to meet her for the first time earlier this season. Our coaching search will be thorough and deliberate, but we are still in the process of composing the list of candidates and Secretary Rice has not been discussed.”

It had seemed unlikely in the extreme that we’d see Rice wearing a headset on the sideline and drawing up Xs and Os next season — she would function more like a CEO, supplying leadership and organization, both areas in which the Browns could improve. Despite growing up in Alabama, Rice, 64, has been a lifelong Browns fan who has long been as comfortable in sports as she is in politics and academia. She has appeared in NFL merchandise ads wearing Browns jerseys, and her name has been often mentioned as a candidate for NFL commissioner.

Joe Browne, the retired senior NFL executive, noted on Twitter that, when Rice was rumored to be interested in running the NFL 15 years ago, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue signed a football for her with this message: “Madam Secretary, be careful what you wish for!”

Her sports interests extend beyond football. She was one of the first two women admitted to membership at the Augusta National Golf Club in 2012 and she recently led the College Basketball Commission, formed in response to that sport’s corruption scandal. She also was one of the first members of the College Football Playoff selection committee, holding a seat from 2013 to 2016.

It’s unclear just when we’ll see a woman coaching a men’s team at the pro level. Rex Ryan hired Kathryn Smith as a quality control assistant when he was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, the San Francisco 49ers have Katie Sowers as an offensive assistant and Kelsey Martinez is on the Oakland Raiders' strength staff. In the NBA, Becky Hammon broke through as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and has since been followed by Nancy Lieberman (Sacramento Kings), Jenny Boucek (Dallas Mavericks) and Kristi Toliver (Washington Wizards).

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