Pat Fitzgerald certainly won’t talk about it, but the NFL rumor mills are buzzing. After Teddy Greenstein first reported on the possibility a month ago, several articles have come out recently mentioning Northwestern’s head football coach as a strong candidate for the Green Bay job. With Adam Schefter now reporting that the Packers would officially request to interview Fitzgerald, the connection now appears real as ever.
The rumors picked up steam post-Greenstein’s story nearly a month ago when PackersNews called it “a lock” that Green Bay would contact Fitzgerald (they also said Northwestern’s offense was “high-octane,” which...)
Then, shortly thereafter, Fitzgerald opened at 6-1 odds to win the Packers job from some betting sites. Most of the smoke around his name, though, still seemed to be just that, especially after it was reported that the Packers were interviewing former NFL head coaches and more traditional picks Jim Caldwell and Chuck Pagano.
But over the weekend, the story has suddenly picked up credence again, this time on a national level. On Friday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Focus wrote an article regarding Fitzgerald’s links to the Packers. Albert Breer reported a similar story as well. Neither included new information, but the buzz continued to build.
Then, Saturday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com said that the Packers were expected to target Fitzgerald in his column on NFC coaching outlooks.
Finally, after the majority of blogs had caught onto the story, Schefter’s story came out Sunday morning, confirming that the Packers would extend an interview request to Northwestern’s coach. The ESPN reporter noted that it was no sure thing that Fitzgerald would accept the request, but if he chooses to, the Packers certainly seem interested.
For his part, Fitzgerald seems non-plussed by the extra attention thus far. From his Sunday morning pre-Holiday Bowl press conference:
Fitz on the Packers rumors:— Inside NU (@insidenu) December 30, 2018
“Are you sure they’re about me? I’ll repeat what I said a month ago to Teddy: I don’t comment on rumors, and hashtag Go ‘Cats.”
According to Rapoport, Fitzgerald has “shut down countless interview requests in the past,” and he’s never seemed as much as tempted by links to other college programs or, more infrequently, the NFL.
But this connection has more basis. For starters, Fitzgerald’s connection with team CEO Mark Murphy is well-known, as Murphy hired him to be the head coach while he was the AD at Northwester. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, a former college scout, is a “huge admirer” of Fitzgerald as well, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein. And of course, with the additions of Tyler Lancaster, Ibrahim Campbell, and Dan Vitale to Dean Lowry this year, the Packers have by far the most Wildcats on any NFL roster.
Fitzgerald to the Packers, as a pure coaching move, doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense on its face, thanks to his coaching style and lack of professional experience. But the hot stove is cooking, and where there’s smoke there is often fire.