Pat Fitzgerald is a Northwestern man through and through, but he should be not disregarded as a candidate for NFL head coaching jobs.
If there’s such a thing as a Northwestern man, such as labels are laid out, Pat Fitzgerald is that. He played linebacker at the school, and has been coaching at his alma mater since 2001. That includes the last 13 seasons as head coach, with a 95-70 record heading into the Holiday Bowl against Utah on Dec. 31.
The Wildcats made it to the Big Ten Championship Game this year, winning the weaker West Division, but Fitzgerald’s stock may never be higher. On that note, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported the Green Bay Packers are expected to contact Fitzgerald as they search for Mike McCarthy’s replacement.
Fitzgerald comes with a defensive acumen, but Northwestern has had a good offense under him. He also has a tie to Packers’ CEO Mark Murphy, who was athletic director at Northwestern when Fitzgerald has named head coach after Randy Walker died of a heart attack before the 2006 season.
Fitzgerald surely isn’t pining to leave Northwestern, and he’s clearly in no danger of being fired. If he were to consider leaving, it may only be for the Chicago Bears’ job at the appropriate time due to a desire to stay in the Chicago area. But that job seems unlikely to come open for awhile now, as Matt Nagy further establishes himself.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports passed along quotes from people in the NFL regarding Fitzgerald.
Total stud,” as one long-time NFL scout put it. “I would hire him in a minute. But he’s never leaving Northwestern.”
“Everything about him would play in the NFL,” said another NFL decision maker. “But I don’t think that’s what he wants. He’s not going anywhere”
“He would be at the top of my list,” said one NFL personnel man with a team considering a coaching change. “But I don’t think we’d have much of a chance to get him. It’s a lot like David Shaw at Stanford. Are they ever going to really leave?
Fitzgerald is clearly on the NFL’s radar, and the Packers probably won’t be alone with interest after the season. The Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets immediately come to mind as teams sure to be looking for a new head coach, and the Bengals in particular could land on on him.
As some NFL teams start laying the groundwork for a coaching search, all avenues have to be open. Even if Fitzgerald quickly says no to an interview, the answer can’t come if he isn’t asked and his standing as a candidate to make the jump will remain until further notice.