The head start that the Packers secured by firing coach Mike McCarthy with four weeks left in the regular season allowed Green Bay to court, and to interview, candidates not currently tied to other NFL teams. That has resulted in reported interviews with candidates like former Colts/Lions coach Jim Caldwell and former Colts coach Chuck Pagano.
But what about college candidates? The name most prominently connected to the Packers’ vacancy is Pat Fitzgerald, and for good reason. Employed as the head coach at Northwestern since 2006, Fitzgerald secured the job on the watch of former Northwestern A.D. Mark Murphy. And, yes, that’s the same Mark Murphy who as of 2007 became the CEO of the Green Bay Packers.
The 44-year-old Fitzgerald, who became Murphy’s legacy-making hire at Northwestern, could become Murphy’s legacy-making hire in Green Bay, a coach who could remain in place for a decade or longer, assuming he has the chops to thrive at the next level.
Fitzgerald has generated a record of 95-70 at Northwestern, and he has taken the Wildcats to nine bowl games. This year, Northwestern will play on Monday in the Holiday Bowl. After that, it could be that the next move for Fitzgerald will be a move to the NFL, and a partnership with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Even if Rodgers wants Joe Philbin instead.
The Packers likely will cast a wide net of interviews, looking for the best candidate for the job. But it surely will help Fitzgerald that he once was the best candidate for a head-coaching job that Murphy was filling in one of his final acts before taking the job he now has.