NY Jets must pursue Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald for head coach job

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /
NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald
NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald /

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Jets must consider Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerlad for their head coach job.

After a long wait, the time has finally come. The Adam Gase era is over, as the NY Jets will be moving on from one of their worst coaches in team history.

Already, it has been said that general manager Joe Douglas will have the final say on who will be his replacement. This being a huge deal given ownership’s past hires. Specifically, acting owner Christopher Johnson’s hire of Gase in the first place.

On Saturday night, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Jets were expected to fire Gase following their game against the Patriots Sunday.

He went on to add an extensive list of candidates to replace him, including Eric Bienemy (Chiefs OC), Matt Eberflus (Colts DC), Wink Martindale (Ravens DC), Arthur Smith (Titans OC), Brandon Staley (Rams DC), Matt Campbell (Iowa State HC), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan HC), and Dan Mullen (Florida HC).

All eight make for good candidates for the Jets to pursue. Yet the biggest takeaway is not exactly the names on the list, but how many. The Jets are set for a long and thorough search as they look to find someone who will work alongside Douglas going forward.

Sunday morning, it was reported that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald would be open to a leap to the pros. Having also been mentioned in the past, Fitzgerald is no stranger to NFL head coaching rumors and multiple teams would be interested.

But why exactly should the Jets be interested in Fitzgerald?

Next: 1. His work at Northwestern

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald
NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald /

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald

1. Pat Fitzgerald has turned Northwestern into a top Big Ten program

Pat Fitzgerald’s history with Northwestern dates back to even before his coaching career. In the mid-1990s, Fitzgerald was a star linebacker for the Wildcats.

He was even a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-American. Fitzgerald never made it in the NFL, although did serve a brief stint with the Dallas Cowboys.

Following his playing career, Fitzgerald spent a year with both Maryland and Colorado as a graduate assistant before a year at Colorado as a linebacker and special teams coach. Then, in 2001, he returned to his alma mater.

Between 2001-2005, Fitzgerald spent time coaching defensive backs and linebackers, until the unfortunate passing of head coach Randy Walker saw Fitzgerald elevated to the position.

After a 4-8 year in 2006, the Wildcats started to become a consistent competitor in the Big Ten West and has ever since.

Since becoming head coach, Northwestern has gone 106-81, finishing the season ranked four times. The program has made 10 bowl games, with a 5-5 record, and has produced NFL talent despite not being a program that gets many four, five-star recruits.

Some include Green Bay Packers’ Dean Lowry, Indianapolis Colts’ Anthony Walker, Minnesota Vikings’ Ifeadi Odenigbo, amongst many others.

He has taken Northwestern, who has been playing football since 1892, from a team with two ever 10-win seasons, to three in the past nine years.

Without a doubt, he has changed his alma matter forever. And that is exactly what the Jets would hope he does should they get him to leave Northwestern.

Next: 2. A change at the top

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald
NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald /

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2. Pat Fitzgerald can be that CEO-type head coach for the NY Jets

Prior to the “offensive-minded” hire in Adam Gase, the Jets had a long stretch of defensive first head coaches. Todd Bowles (2015-18), Rex Ryan (2009-14), Eric Mangini (2006-08), and so on, the team had not had a true offensive head coach since … Rich Kotite from 1995-96.

Luckily, Jets fans would not have to stress over another so-called offensive guru leading the way. Pat Fitzgerald is a defensive-minded head coach before anything.

Again, Fitzgerald played linebacker, before being a defensive assistant, and then leading an always-strong Wildcats’ defense. As a matter of fact, Northwestern has not ranked below 48th out of the 130 FBS teams in opponents’ points per game since 2014.

Nevertheless, Pat Fitzgerald is known for being a leader who can build up a program. He has shown how he can develop players and get the best out of the week in and week out.

When the team had the worst season during the Fitzgerald tenure in 2019, he told everyone Northwestern would be back.

A year later, they nearly upset Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game just weeks ago and beat Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. On top of that, Fitzgerald won the 2020 Dodd Coach of the Year award for his success his past season.

While the college-to-pro jump is never easy, Fitzgerald is a well-respected name in the NFL community. Many members of his staff have moved on to the pros or higher-profile college football jobs.

Teams have also pursued Fitzgerald in the past, including the Carolina Panthers last season, and the Green Bay Packers in 2018. The Jets even reached out before hiring Gase.

Next: 3. The interest must work both ways

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald
NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald /

NY Jets, Pat Fitzgerald Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

3. Why Pat Fitzgerald would consider the NY Jets

Pat Fitzgerald has virtually been at Northwestern for two and a half decades, and well suited to remain there for more. And he is not going to leave for any NFL job. Outside of New York, the Lions, Falcons, and Texans all could have him on their radar.

Each team offers a different situation. Detroit has Matthew Stafford and a long rebuild ahead. The Falcons having talented aging veterans and plenty of needs to solve with limited cap space. Meanwhile, Houston has Deshaun Watson in addition to a horrendous cap and draft position.

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What New York has to offer is draft capital and cap flexibility, something only the Jacksonville Jaguars (who have not yet been connected to Fitzgerald) could match.

The team is ready to draft a young team and develop the few pieces currently on the roster. New York would be able to sell Fitzgerald on virtually building up a team alongside Douglas to his liking, similarly to what he has done at Northwestern.

Fitzgerald would also be able to come in and determine what he wants to do at the quarterback position. On the one hand, the Jets could stick with Sam Darnold or use the second overall pick in the NFL Draft.

BYU’s Zach Wilson has already declared, and it would surprise all if Ohio State’s Justin Fields did not do the same. The Jets could even trade back in the draft and get even more draft capital.

NY Jets reportedly targeting these 8 head coach candidates. Next

In other words, the Jets could attack building this team any way they want. And there are very few better ways to start than by hiring Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald as the new Jets head coach.