Today is November 16. The Northwestern men’s basketball team has more wins than the football team. Football season began in August; basketball started last Monday. After another loss to Minnesota last weekend, the ‘Cats are 1-9 and still have yet to win a contest on American soil. In what feels like eons ago, there was an optimistic feeling surrounding this team after its lone win against Nebraska. Now, Northwestern is left with far more questions than anyone could’ve expected coming into the season.
I see no point in getting into the nitty-gritty of the poor performance against Minnesota so I’ll provide a quick recap: Four quarterbacks threw passes, the offense wasn’t great, the defense was equally uninspiring and Mohamed Ibrahim is still probably running for another chunk play. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s zoom out and talk about some of the macro questions facing this team.
At the very least, it’s time to start the discussion about Pat Fitzgerald. For the first time in his tenure, it is starting to feel like Fitzgerald’s seat is warming. It is easy to point fingers at the coordinators, who absolutely deserve a slice of the blame pie, but a large portion of responsibility for this disappointing season falls on Fitz’s shoulders.
It would be difficult to imagine a Northwestern program without Fitzgerald, who has been synonymous with the Wildcat team for over a decade. I believe (and I know many ‘Cats fans disagree) that it would be a mistake to fire Pat Fitzgerald at the end of this season.
It’s difficult to imagine considering the team’s record over the past two seasons, but I think in the alternate reality where Fitz has not been head honcho over that span, results may have been even more dire. Maybe I am overly hopeful, but this team is only two years removed from a Big Ten West title.
Pat Fitzgerald is a good coach. It’s why there’s been NFL rumblings over the past several offseasons. There is something to be said about the fact that Fitzgerald remained loyal to the program even when he was touted by the Packers for their head coach opening in 2019. Even if he were to be canned, and the next Northwestern coach is an immediate success, who’s to say they wouldn’t leave Evanston to rise up in the ranks. It’s a perk of having an alumnus leading the program. Even the NFL is less enticing than home.
All that to say, Pat Fitzgerald deserves the chance to return for the 2023 season. The pressure will be on, and rightfully so, but the best coach in program history is owed the right to a redemption season.
Wow. That wasn’t fun. Let’s talk about something a little cheerier. This week, Northwestern defensive linemen Adetomiwa Adebawore was added to the Senior Bowl roster. The Senior Bowl is an annual all-star game played in Mobile, Alabama. The game gives prospective NFL players a chance to be coached by pro staffs and showcase their talents in front of scouts. This invitation is a fantastic sign for Adebawore’s NFL outlook. Despite the poor team record, his stellar play has not gone unnoticed in pro circles.
WELCOME! DL Adetomiwa Adebawore @tomiwabawore from @NUFBFamily accepted his invite to the 2023 Senior Bowl!!! #GoCats#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️@JimNagy_SB @PaniniAmerica #RatedRookie pic.twitter.com/xXZUk05rwQ— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) November 14, 2022
Now back to your regularly scheduled doom and gloom.
As fantastic as it is to see future pros like Adebawore and Peter Skoronski represent the purple and white, if the on-field product remains this poor, Northwestern will not have the opportunity to boast NFL talent. In today’s college landscape, great players don’t stay at bad programs. We’ve already seen it with Brandon Joseph, who now resides in South Bend. Unfortunately, it’s safe to assume more talent will be transferring away this spring.
There is very little to celebrate about this team. College football is not like the NFL where bad teams are rewarded with high draft picks at the end of a lousy year. There is no profiting off inadequacy. There’s not a light at the end of the tunnel unless this team starts to play better.
The ‘Cats have the chance to play spoiler against two of their biggest rivals, both of whom are seeking to represent the Big Ten West in Indianapolis. Dismantling the hopes and dreams of Purdue or Illinois would be a great place to start building momentum for next year. But Northwestern has done very little to provide any confidence it will be able to pull off the upset, or even keep the game competitive.
Hopefully, we see some more creativity this weekend. There is nothing left to lose. Games? Northwestern has lost plenty of those. Dignity? After operating out of the Wildcat formation against Ohio State for an entire drive, it’s safe to say that’s gone too. Let’s try something new. Heck, trot out someone in these comment sections. You all seem to know ball. Feel free to shout it out if you want a crack at the QB job.