Armed with Aaron Rodgers and two first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers are looking to round out their team with a new head coach … and could go to the college ranks to find their guy.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports the Packers are expected to cast a wide net featuring 10-12 head-coaching candidates. Among the projected top candidates is Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, who ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports is someone the Packers are expected to request an interview with once his season ends after the Holiday Bowl against Utah.
Even though Fitzgerald has turned down overtures from NFL teams in the past, this one could be different. As we discussed previously when Fitzgerald’s name was floated as a possibility after McCarthy was sent packing, Green Bay CEO Mark Murphy was the Athletics Director at Northwestern who hired Fitzgerald in 2006 after Randy Walker’s unexpected death. It was an outside-the-box hire in 2006 and could be one now. Fitzgerald has thrived at Northwestern, coaching his alma mater to a 95-70 record (pending Monday’s bowl game) and putting the Wildcats program into a place where it is relevant in the Big Ten standings. But it’s possible Fitzgerald could be tempted to take his talents to the next level with a little bit of coaxing from someone who showed conviction by hiring him to the position he has now. And I suppose coaching an iconic franchise and an all-time great quarterback would have its perks.
Of course, Fitzgerald won’t be the only candidate the Packers interview. By firing McCarthy when they did, they gave themselves a trial run with Interim Head Coach Joe Philbin and have reportedly already interviewed ex-Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell and former Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano. This search could unearth a dozen different candidates and the race to land this job could ultimately be as wide open as it gets.
Fitzgerald’s name often pops up on the NFL head coaching rumor mill and will until the day he coaches in the league. Last December, the Bears were viewed by some as an ideal landing spot for Fitzgerald if Chicago’s front office was looking for a different type of candidate and one known for doing more with less. Fitzgerald didn’t really tickle my fancy then, but he has youth on his side, a track record of success, and a connection with Packers higher-ups that make him someone who could be a favorite to land the gig. At age 44, Fitzgerald could turn into the kind of long-term legacy hire that could stabilize a franchise if things go well. And because stability has been synonymous with Green Bay for as long as I can remember, perhaps this pairing makes more sense than we would otherwise think.