Pat Fitzgerald

Pat Fitzgerald Won’t Consider NFL Jobs

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald will not leave the collegiate game for the NFL, his agent tells Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link).

Fitzgerald has recently been adamant that he won’t leave Northwestern, but NFL clubs were still interested in his services. The Packers, for one, were expected to request an interview with Fitzgerald, and Silverstein reports Fitzgerald actually received multiple inquiries from the league. Packers president Mark Murphy hired Fitzgerald at Northwestern, but that connection wasn’t enough to sway Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald, 44, has been mentioned as an NFL candidate since at least 2015. A former player at Northwestern, Fitzgerald began coaching the Wildcats’ defensive backs in 2001, and was eventually named head coach in 2006. He’s since transformed the program, posting a 92-70 record during his time in Evanston.

Fitzgerald inked a 10-year extension with Northwestern in 2017. His salary is not publicly available, but Fitzgerald is believed to be among the highest-paid coaches in the Big Ten.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Packers, Bucs, Broncos

Despite Pat Fitzgerald emphatically proclaiming he was staying at Northwestern following Monday night’s Holiday Bowl win, the Packers are still going to make an attempt to interview him, Tom Silverstein and Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. The Packers were expected to reach out with an interview request, with GM Brian Gutekunst expressing great admiration for the Northwestern coach and Packers president Mark Murphy having hired Fitzgerald when he was at Northwestern, but nothing has transpired yet. The 13-year Wildcats leader said Northwestern was “not going anywhere” and Chicago was “home forever.” Mike McCarthy made more than $8MM last season, according to Silverstein and Owczarski, who suspect the Packers may have to offer at least that — despite Fitzgerald having never coached in the NFL — to entice the 44-year-old college coach. The Packers have thus far requested interviews with Josh McDaniels, Mike Munchak, Dan Campbell, Matt LaFleur and Brian Flores.

Here is the latest from the coaching front on New Year’s Day:

  • The Buccaneers will have a chance to interview Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards. The parties will meet Thursday for a head coach meeting, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Thus far on the coaching carousel, Edwards — the Vikings’ DC for the past five seasons and formerly the Bills’ and Redskins’ DC — has only been connected to Tampa Bay’s vacancy.
  • Gary Kubiak may well be returning to the sideline, in a non-HC capacity. Kubiak stepped down from his role as the Broncos‘ head coach after the 2016 season, citing health concerns, but John Elway said his longtime friend may end up as part of Denver’s 2019 offensive staff. “We’ll see. We’re still in that process,” Elway said. “We still have a lot of things to go over before that, but I think it could be where it is, it could be on the offensive side [as a coach]. We’ll see what that role may be, but Gary will be around.” Kubiak has worked in the Broncos’ front office the past two years. Denver is expected to interview Vic Fangio, Flores and Chuck Pagano (while also set to meet with Rams QBs coach Zac Taylor and Steelers OL coach Mike Munchak). Going defense for a second straight hire would point to Kubiak being in line to take over as offensive coordinator.
  • Dan Quinn‘s Falcons staff continues to undergo changes. The Falcons have parted ways with tight ends coach Wade Harman, multiple sources tell Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Harman had served in this role for four seasons and had been with the Falcons for five, operating as Atlanta’s offensive line coach in 2014.
  • The Bills‘ offensive line coach and run-game coordinator the past two years, Juan Castillo received his walking papers on Tuesday, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. Castillo has worked on both sides of the ball, serving as the Eagles’ DC from 2011-12 before shifting back to offense in his roles since.
  • Despite going 4-12, the 49ers will not shake up their staff. Robert Saleh will stay on as San Francisco’s DC, doing so after his unit set NFL records for fewest interceptions (two) in a season and takeaways (seven) in a season. Kyle Shanahan said (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle) his entire staff will be back in 2019.

North Coaching Rumors: Fitzgerald, Harbaugh, Bengals

We heard last night that the Packers are interested in Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and now there is some fire for that smoke, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that Green Bay is expected to request an interview with Fitzgerald after Northwestern plays in tomorrow’s Holiday Bowl. It is unclear whether Fitzgerald will accept the interview request, but Packers CEO and president Mark Murphy was Northwestern’s athletic director when Fitzgerald was hired as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2006, and the two men have a great deal of respect for each other.

Now for more coaching rumors from the league’s north divisions:

  • Schefter reports that at least one team that is considering a head coaching change is also considering calling the Ravens about a potential trade for head coach John Harbaugh if Baltimore is eliminated from postseason contention today, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk) says multiple teams are thinking about making a run at the 11th-year HC. The Ravens announced earlier this month, despite weeks of rumors to the contrary, that Harbaugh would remain in Baltimore in 2019, but his future with the club still does not feel like a slam dunk. Florio suggests that Baltimore would want at least two first-round picks in exchange for Harbaugh.
  • No one is sure what will happen with Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, and his assistant coaches are actively trying to find out, per Florio. Some believe Lewis will retire from coaching and begin a broadcasting career, while others believe he could become a candidate for the Cardinals‘ head coaching job. If Lewis moves on, Florio writes — as has been reported numerous times — that Hue Jackson would be a candidate to replace him, as would current Vikings head coach (and former Cincinnati DC) Mike Zimmer. Zimmer would perhaps be interested in the Bengals’ gig, per Florio, but much would depend on whether Minnesota would let him leave and if the Vikings would demand significant compensation in exchange.
  • The Vikings will likely attempt to promote interim OC Kevin Stefanski to the full-time job in 2019, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. The problem is that Stefanski is only under contract through 2018, so Minnesota may have to fight to retain him.
  • We heard several weeks ago that Browns interim head coach Gregg Williams has a chance to get the “interim” tag removed, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that Cleveland will indeed give Williams serious consideration (though the team will obviously interview other candidates and continue its full-blown search). Ownership remains high on Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, but if the team does not give Williams the full-time job, it will risk losing the bulk of the staff that has led the Browns’ promising turnaround this year.
  • Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter‘s contract is up at the end of the season, per Rapoport, who suggests that it would be a surprise if Cooter remained in Detroit in 2019. The 34-year-old is expected to be a highly-coveted OC candidate assuming he and the Lions part ways. Unsurprisingly, Rapoport says head coach Matt Patricia is safe [SOURCE LINK].

Latest On Packers’ Staff, Coaching Search

Only two days until Black Monday and the coaching carousel is in full swing, with rumors flying left and right. The Packers have already fired head coach Mike McCarthy, but some of his assistants status’ are still up in the air. At least one significant change is coming, as one of the Packers’ longtime trainers, Pepper Burruss, is retiring, notes Rob Demovsky of ESPN (Twitter link). Burruss was with the team for 22 years.

Demovsky also notes in a separate tweet that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is unsure whether he’s being retained, but that as of now he’s planning on his usual after the season work. Meanwhile, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that Pettine wants to be back, but that he’ll likely be let go if the Packers hire a defensive minded coach.

It all suggests Pettine has a chance to be back, which might be a surprise to some, but he’s highly respected within the building. Holdovers from fired coaches’ staffs aren’t that common, but they aren’t unheard of either. Jim Bob Cooter was retained as the Lions’ offensive coordinator after Jim Caldwell was fired last year, and there’s plenty of precedent. While the Packers have mostly been linked to offensive minded coaches to pair with Aaron Rodgers, they’ve been rumored to be interested in at least one defensive guru, Pat Fitzgerald.

The team does indeed plan to pursue the Northwestern coach for their head coaching vacancy, sources told Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapsheet notes that Fitzgerald “has shut down countless interview requests from the NFL in the past”, but the chance to coach a team like the Packers and Rodgers may change his mind.

Rapoport also writes that while interim coach Joe Philbin will receive an interview from team president Mark Murphy and GM Brian Gutekunst, “it would be a surprise if he received the full-time job.” Instead, the team is expected to “conduct a wide-ranging search with perhaps 10-12 candidates.” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is another name that has come up frequently, and the team has already interviewed Chuck Pagano and Caldwell.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Harbaugh, Ravens, Carroll, Seahawks, Packers, Fitzgerald, Joseph, Bengals

It’s the time of year where the coaching carousel is about to be in full swing, and there are a ton of rumors floating around. While there are a slew of coaches who are near locks to be fired come next Monday, the biggest stories of the week have been about two coaches who are staying put, John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. The Ravens suddenly announced Harbaugh would be back in 2019 after there was a ton of speculation that he’d be fired if Baltimore missed the playoffs. While the team announced in their statement they were going to try to work on an extension and all appeared to be well and good, his long term future with the team is apparently very much still in doubt.

There’s a “real chance” that Harbaugh opts not to sign any extension from the Ravens, notes Peter King of NBC Sports. King writes Harbaugh may “coach his final season and take his chance on the market in 2020.” Harbaugh was expected to be pursued by several teams if he was let go by the Ravens, and would likely have his pick of at least a few jobs if he decides to go that route in 2020. For what it’s worth Harbaugh didn’t sound particularly excited after the Ravens announced he’d be back in 2019, calling the news a “non-story”, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN (Twitter link). Coaches very rarely willingly switch teams, but it sounds like Harbaugh could be an exception.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks as we barrel toward Week 17:

  • Carroll got an extension from the Seahawks this past week, and is committed to Seattle for the long haul. Carroll spoke glowingly of the organization, and said he plans on coaching at least another five years, according to Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune. His new deal is reportedly paying him around $11MM per year, so it’s no surprise he’s in no rush to get going. The three year extension will take Carroll through his age 70 season.
  • Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald could be a candidate for the Packers’ head coaching job, multiple people told Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer points out that Packers president Mark Murphy used to be Northwestern’s athletic director, and hired Fitzgerald at NU. Fitzgerald has done a great job turning the Wildcats into a good program, and his name has come up a couple of times in recent NFL coaching cycles. It would be an outside the box hire, but that might be exactly what Green Bay needs to re-energize the team.
  • Vance Joseph is all but certain to be fired by the Broncos at the end of the season, but his days as a head coach might not be over. Joseph’s name “has popped up in recent weeks as a potential heir to” Marvin Lewis with the Bengals, according to Breer. Joseph was a defensive backs coach with the Bengals for a couple of years before landing the DC gig in Miami, and as Breer notes, the Bengals love to hire people they’re familiar with. Breer also writes that “there’s been talk that owner Mike Brown could take one more run at it with Marvin Lewis in charge in 2019″, before he cedes more control over to his children after next year. It’s quite possible Joseph joins the team on the defensive staff next year, and that he and Hue Jackson battle it out to succeed Lewis after that.

Extra Points: Sherman, Bortles, Lincoln Riley, Ravens

It won’t be this year or the next, but at some point before he calls it quits on a likely Hall of Fame career, cornerback Richard Sherman is likely to make the move to safety, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch writes.

The four-time First Team All-Pro selection is open to it at least, saying:

“It’s definitely something that I’ve looked at,” Sherman said. “And something that I’ve talked with (Charles Woodson) about.”

In the first of a three-year deal with the 49ers, Sherman still rates as an above average cornerback according to Pro Football Focus. Now in his 30s, however, the star defender is already looking to make a similar move that prolonged the careers of Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Aeneas Williams. Despite the move, don’t expect him to play into his late 30s.

“I think 35 is probably my cutoff,” Sherman said. “I don’t think I want to play … they’d have a hard time getting me out of bed at 35 to go play. I think I’ve got four or five more (years) in me.”

Here’s more from around the league:

  • After his benching, Blake Bortles is unlikely to be back with the Jaguars next season, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes. With $6.5MM of Bortles’ $16.5MM contract next season guaranteed, the Jaguars can hope that some team signs him for $6.5MM — unlikely — or package him in a trade with a team that would be considering signing him, a la Brock Osweiler. The Jaguars will still have a cap charge of $10MM, but the team can push $5MM of that into 2020.
  • The Ravens did not activate cornerback Jaylen Hill from the PUP list, officially ending his season. Recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, Hill was unlikely to take the field after recently suffering a setback.
  • With the college game becoming more intertwined with the professional ranks, Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports listed 10 college coaches who could make the jump to the NFL. To no one’s surprise, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley was at the top of the heap thanks to his high-powered offense that produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Baker Mayfield, and potentially another in Kyler Murray. Other notable names on the list include Stanford’s David Shaw, former 49ers coach and current Michigan man Jim Harbaugh and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald.

Breer On Allen, Westbrook, Raiders

Earlier today, we highlighted two noteworthy items from Albert Breer’s latest column. Breer hears that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin could garner NFL offensive coordinator consideration this offseason. Also, an NFLPA source tells Breer that the Raiders may have to add salary this year in order to hit the CBA’s mandated minimum spend.

On top of that, Breer has even more news. Here are the highlights:

  • Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen is undersized at 6’3″ and 294 pounds, but scouts feel that he is talented enough to make it work at the next level. “He’s a really good football player,” said an AFC college scouting director. “He isn’t a big hulking guy—average height, average weight, not long enough to play end. But he maxes out everything he has. Tough, great hands, instinctive, a really good athlete, motor, balance, bend, everything. The only thing he lacks is size. He will run good (at the combine), but he won’t light it up. But his motor, leverage, hand use, he can rush the passer, he’s stout vs. the run. He’s just a good all-around player. I can’t say he’ll be a dominant force in the NFL, but he’s just the type of guy you win with. A first-rounder all the way.” That evaluator went on to opine that Allen is a better athlete than 2016 Alabama products A’Shawn Robinson (Lions) and Jarran Reed (Seahawks). That’s high praise, considering both players have already become contributors for their respective teams.
  • Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook is another breakout player with size concerns. Still, his draft stock is looking good. “The rise that he’s made, it’s unbelievable,” one area scout assigned to OU said. “Last year was his first at a big-time program and he was inconsistent—drops, it didn’t seem like he was aware on the field, he looked unnatural. He’s a totally different player now, and he’s talented to begin with. They’ve done a great job coaching him. He’s pretty good in all areas now—hands, he’s more confident, he’s catching the ball better, and there’s a little something about him. He could go really high.” That doesn’t mean every scout is sold on him. Breer writes that “some evaluators look at him as a poor man’s DeSean Jackson.” But, like DJax, Westbrook can line up on the inside or the outside and can also be a factor in the return game.
  • Only 12 of the 117 head coaches hired by NFL teams since 2000 came directly from the college ranks, but it’s possible that trend could change. Putting aside obvious names like Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Jimbo Fisher, and Jim Harbaugh, Breer ran down five names who have arguably helped their teams overachieve: Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, new Texas hire Tom Herman (formerly of Houston, a smaller program), Washington’s Chris Petersen, and Stanford’s David Shaw. In the case of the Chicago-based Fitzgerald, the “perception” is that he would be enticed by the Bears job, Breer writes.
  • For all the talk of the Raiders moving to Las Vegas, Breer expects the league to keep close tabs on Oakland’s proposal. That’s because the league wants to maintain a foothold in the North Bay area. Now that the 49ers have moved to Santa Clara, the league is hopeful that the Raiders could expand their fan base with the Bay’s affluent residents. It also helps that Oakland is easier to get to than Santa Clara. Recently, there has been word that the NFL would actually prefer to keep the Raiders in Oakland.

Jim Mora, Pat Fitzgerald Candidates For NFL Jobs

With Black Monday – the day following the conclusion of the regular season when a number of NFL head coaches will inevitably lose their jobs – about a week away, clubs will soon take a circumspect look at the available candidates. Many of those replacement options will come from the NFL ranks, but college coaches will naturally engender interest, as well. Two such NCAA coaches, per Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, are Jim Mora of UCLA and Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern.

Mora, 54, spent 2004-06 as head coach of the Falcons, earning a postseason berth during his first season; he was also the Seahawks’ head coach during a forgettable 2009 season. He’s been much more successful during his NCAA time, posting a 37-16 record in Los Angeles. Per La Canfora, More might not be too eager to make the jump to the NFL, as he has long-term job security and one of the top collegiate rosters at UCLA. But the Chargers job, if open, would be particularly appealing to Mora, as he’d be able to stay on the West Coast while leading a team with a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers.

The 41-year-old Fitzgerald has been garnering NFL interest for years, per La Canfora, as clubs are impressed that Northwestern has been able to stay competitive in the Big 10 despite lacking top-end talent. NFL teams are even more impressed this season, says La Canfora, and search firms are actively testing Fitzgerald’s level of intrigue in leaping to the NFL. One possible roadblock? Fitzgerald might be reticent to leave the greater Chicago area (and the Bears job isn’t likely to open up any time soon).

The Titans and Dolphins will certainly be searching for new head coaches this offseason, while the Rams, Browns, Giants, 49ers, Lions, and Saints could also be in the hunt.