Jim Harbaugh and Pat Fitzgerald Pop Up as Packers' Head Coaching Candidates

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Jim Harbaugh and Pat Fitzgerald Pop Up as Packers’ Head Coaching Candidates

Chicago Bears

The Green Bay Packers woke up on Monday looking up at the first-place Chicago Bears and second-place Minnesota Vikings, a pair of teams who’ve hired new head coaches in recent years to spark organizational revivals. And after firing Mike McCarthy following a home loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals, the Packers will look to emulate that success with a home-run hire of their own.

Their coaching search is only in its infancy, but a pair of names with Bears connections have already popped up. The first is someone we thought would be a possible candidate for the Bears at this time last year:

Ex-Bears quarterback, long-rumored potential head-coaching candidate, and current Michigan football HC Jim Harbaugh is the first big-name candidate to be connected in some way to the Packers opening. Sure, this is ridiculously early speculation and Harbaugh is always ends up back on campus even when his name gets tossed around the rumor mill.

But what if this is the time he takes his talents back to the professional ranks? I imagine coaching Aaron Rodgers is more appealing than whoever was throwing those passes against Ohio State a few weeks ago.

Another college coach on the Packers’ radar seems to be Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, once believed to be a candidate for the Bears’ vacancy last offseason and someone who Tom Silverstein of PackersNews.com writes is “almost a lock” to be contacted by Green Bay’s front office. It would be a bold move to hire a Chicago-area guy away from coaching his alma mater, but it’s impossible to ignore the NU-Packers connections.

Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy was Northwestern’s Director of Athletics when Fitzgerald was hired to take over at his alma mater in 2006 after the tragic and unexpected death of Randy Walker. Since taking over Northwestern at age 31, all Fitzgerald has done since is make Northwestern the most competitive Big Ten school in Illinois. Only Northern Illinois could possibly stake a claim to being a better in-state Division I program in the same time span. Green Bay’s roster has a purple-and-white flair to it, with Wildcat products such as defensive back Ibraheim Campbell, fullback Dan Vitale, defensive end Dean Lowry, and defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster on their roster.

Outside-the-box hires are starting to become the norm in the NFL, which is cool to me because it’s easy to get tired of the same old retreads hogging up coaching gigs who happen to do less with more when given the opportunity. Going with either of these coaching candidates would definitely be a step outside said box.

Because the Packers are immediate competition for the Bears in the division, we’ll continue to keep a close eye on their coaching search and the candidates connected who could be leading the charge at this time next year.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.