Jim Leonhard coached his final game for the Wisconsin Badgers on Tuesday night. With new head coach Luke Fickell deferring to Leonhard, the Badgers defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys 24-17 in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. The win marks the end of Leonhard’s tenure at Wisconsin. A former Badgers player, Leonhard returned as defensive backs coach and then as defensive coordinator for his alma mater.
When Luke Fickell was named head coach, Leonhard made the decision that he would not return to Wisconsin next season. He agreed, however, to stay on as defensive coordinator the the Bowl Game. Now that his run is over, the big question is, “What’s next for Coach Leonhard?” One NFL analyst believes his future could lie with one of his former teams.
Jim Leonhard Could Return to the Cleveland Browns
Everyone knows the answer to the question, “Where did Jim Leonhard go to college?” However, not even all Badgers fans can list off his NFL teams. In a career that spanned 10 seasons, Leonhard played for the Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Cleveland Browns. It is the Browns that NFL analyst Benjamin Allbright believes could be the next landing spot for defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard:
I think it depends on who is available, I wouldn't be surprised if they poked around Jim Leonard.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) December 27, 2022
“I think it depends on who is available, I wouldn’t be surprised if they poked around Jim Leonard.”
The team in question in the above Tweet is the Cleveland Browns, who are expected to move on from defensive coordinator Joe Woods after the season.
Jim Leonhard played for the Cleveland Browns in the last season of his NFL career. In that 2014 season, he played in all 16 games, starting five of them. Leonhard recorded 42 tackles and two interceptions. He also served as the Browns’ kick/punt returner, as he did for all of his teams during the duration of his career.
Jim Leonhard Will Have Options
It should be noted that Allbright’s theory that the Browns will be interested in Jim Leonhard is just that: a theory. However, Leonhard is one of the most respected defensive coordinators in football and will undoubtedly have many offers. Fans of the Green Bay Packers are well aware that Leonhard was actually offered their team’s defensive coordinator position, but turned it down to return to Wisconsin.
Without a doubt, the Browns and Packers will not be the only NFL teams interested in Leonhard. He will surely be able to get just about any job that he wants.
A New Era of Wisconsin Badgers Football
As difficult as it is to let such a highly respected coach walk, it is necessary in this case. Wisconsin has been underachieving for quite some time now. With conference realignment on the horizon, the Badgers needed a coach who would help them reach the levels of Ohio State and Michigan. That is, Wisconsin needs to be competing for National Championships every year. In Luke Fickell, they have the coach who can get them there.