Name a better combination than the Green Bay Packers and not being able to hire their first choice of coaching candidate in recent years. The Packers famously missed out on former Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator/interim head coach Jim Leonhard and settled for Joe Barry instead.
Yesterday, Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired in the wake of a report that he had knowledge of hazing, sexual assault, and racism in his program and chose to do nothing about it. The allegations have reminded many Packers fans that Matt LaFleur was not Green Bay’s first choice for head coach in 2019. It was Fitzgerald.
Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy Wanted to Hire Pat Fitzgerald
Many forget that prior to joining the Packers organization, Mark Murphy was the athletic director at Northwestern. In fact, he was the one who hired Fitzgerald as the head coach of the Wildcats in the first place.
That is why, when the Packers fired Mike McCarthy in 2018, Murphy’s first choice as his replacement was Fitzgerald. However, the now-disgraced Fitzgerald wanted to stay where was. Tom Silverstein of PackersNews wrote at the time:
“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.”
Talk about dodging a bullet. The allegations that have led to Fitzgerald’s hiring reportedly had been going on for years. They would have come out eventually, and the Packers could have been in a precarious situation had they come out while he was head coach of their team.
Of course, the team opted to hire Matt LaFleur, who has compiled a 47-19 record in four seasons and berths in two NFC Championship Games.
It appears the Packers’ best move of the 2019 season was the one they couldn’t make.