3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern Head Coach
If there’s a symbol of Northwestern football, it’s Fitzgerald. A linebacker on the 1995 Rose Bowl team, he spent most of his time as an assistant coach at his alma mater and he’s 104-80 in 15 seasons as the Wildcats’ head coach (5-1 this season). But he is also never too far from NFL head coaching rumors going back several years, from an interview with the Green Bay Packers two years ago to turning down an interview with the Carolina Panthers just a year ago.
The possible job opening that is by far the easiest to tie to Fitzgerald is the Chicago Bears. Matt Nagy is on his way out, and proximity to the Northwestern campus in Evanston is a factor. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has gone back to that well again recently. Bears minority owner Pat Ryan is a Northwestern alum. La Canfora reported Ryan is close with, and is a huge proponent, of Fitzgerald’s.
If Fitzgerald leaves Northwestern, the Bears seems to be the job he’d leave for far above any other. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated won’t rule out the New York Jets as a team that will pursue Fitzgerald, with the obvious question if he’d even take an interview there. But sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire, and maybe Fitzgerald is more open to leaving his alma mater than it’s being perceived. Otherwise, there’s a chance there would be no NFL rumors. In any case, nothing would stop teams other than the Bears from gauging his interest.