Pat Fitzgerald declines Packers' head-coach overtures, will remain at Northwestern

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald watches from the sidelines during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers will not be interviewing Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald for their head-coach opening.

According to agent Bryan Harlan, multiple NFL teams inquired about the 44-year-old coach, but in the end Fitzgerald decided to stay with his alma mater, where he has been head coach for the past 13 years and is locked into a 10-year contract extension he signed two years ago.

The Packers had to know it was a long shot that they would be able to lure Fitzgerald from the college ranks.

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Fitzgerald grew up in the Chicago area, was a star linebacker for the Wildcats, is a lifelong Bears fan and said after the team’s come-from-behind victory over Utah on New Year’s Eve that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy hired Fitzgerald when he was athletic director at Northwestern in 2006, and general manager Brian Gutekunst has admired him greatly, according to sources. Both wanted to gauge Fitzgerald’s interest in the position but needed to wait until the Wildcats’ bowl game.

The Packers probably would have doubled Fitzgerald’s $3.62 million salary, but they couldn’t erase his loyalty to a university that has made a major commitment to becoming a big-time Division I football program.

The Wildcats won the Big Ten West Division and played in the Big Ten Championship for the first time. Capping the season off with a Holiday Bowl victory put Fitzgerald on top of the world.

The construction of a new $280 million football facility and the breakthrough 2018 season should make recruiting top players easier for Fitzgerald. Given he is only 44, it’s likely other NFL opportunities will come his way, and possibly an opportunity to coach the Bears.

Even if Fitzgerald had agreed to interview, Murphy and Gutekunst would have had to make his new contract too good to pass up. The fact Fitzgerald wouldn’t be too far from home would have played in their favor, but their timing just wasn’t right.

Murphy and Gutekunst have been busy lining up interviews for a successor to Mike McCarthy.

Since Monday, the Packers have set up interviews with:

» Josh McDaniels, New England offensive coordinator (Friday)

» Brian Flores, New England linebackers coach and defensive play caller (Friday)

» Dan Campbell, New Orleans assistant head coach/tight ends (Saturday)

» Pete Carmichael Jr., New Orleans offensive coordinator (Saturday)

» Matt LaFleur, Tennessee offensive coordinator (Sunday)

» Mike Munchak, Pittsburgh offensive line coach (unknown)

They have already interviewed former head coaches Jim Caldwell (Indianapolis, Detroit) and Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis).          


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