Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald, who has enjoyed an unprecedented run of success with the Wildcats, is a serious contender to become the next coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Fitzgerald, who was hired to coach Northwestern when current Green Bay President and CEO Mark Murphy was the university’s athletic director in 2006, is generating significant interest in the Packers search to replace ousted coach Mike McCarthy, according to Bleacher Report.
“The Packers’ search is underway, and the one name that multiple folks brought up over the last week was Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who was hired into that job by Green Bay president/ex-NU AD Mark Murphy. Murphy’s running the show here, with half-dozen execs, including GM Brian Gutekunst, working with him,” said Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.
The 44-year-old Fitzgerald was Mark Murphy’s legacy-making hire at Northwestern, and could become his legacy-making hire at Green Bay as a coach who could lead the Packers for a decade if he has the ability, according to Yahoo Sports.
Green Bay has already interviewed former Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell and former Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who reportedly has had a lot of pull in the direction of the team, prefers that interim coach Joe Philbin gets the job.
Fitzgerald was a two-time consensus All-American linebacker for the Wildcats and led them to a Big 10 Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl in 1996, winning back-to-back Nagurski and Bednarik Awards in 1995 and 1996. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Fitzgerald returned to coach his alma mater in 2006, and has compiled 95 wins at Northwestern to become the university’s all-time winningest coach. He had led Northwestern to nine bowl games in his 13 seasons, which is three more than the school had ever earned before his arrival, despite fielding a team since 1892. Northwestern earned a berth in the Big 10 Championship Game this season before losing the title to Ohio State, and will represent their conference on Monday in the Holiday Bowl. He was unanimously named the Big 10 Coach of the Year.
“No question he is deserving of it,” said current Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips. “He always deflects the recognition, pushing it to the (players) and the (assistant) coaches. But he is the leader of this operation.”
“I would go all out to make this candidate, who just turned 44 this week, feel as wanted and appreciated and needed as possible, because, to me, this is the absolute perfect fit to try to take this team back to the promised land,” said Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports. “As best I can see it, especially in this year where there are so few ‘sure thing’ head coaching candidates in the NFL, and with upwards of a third of the teams in the NFL perhaps seeking a new leader, Fitzgerald would be the perfect boss for this club, at this very time.”