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Jets Coaching Candidate of the Day: Pat Fitzgerald

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference-Football Championship-Northwestern vs Ohio State Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

With Todd Bowles likely on the way out at the end of the season, we are going to take a look at some of the potential candidates to replace him. Whenever we do something like this, there are some typical criticisms that always pop up like, “Why profile this guy? He stinks!” and “He won’t be interested.” We aren’t just profiling the good candidates or suggesting these people are all likely to take the job. We are simply looking at people the Jets could reasonably expected to call.

Today’s candidate: Pat Fitzgerald

Category: College Coach

Current Job: Northwestern Head Coach

Years of NFL Coaching Experience: 0

Head Coaching Experience: Northwestern (2006-present)


  • 95-70 career record.
  • Over .500 career conference record in the Big Ten despite Northwestern having numerous disadvantages.
  • Has won with less talented teams than his competition.
  • While we typically think about scouting and development as being purely about players, it also applies to assistant coaches and personnel people. Seventeen people who started as volunteers under Fitzgerald now have full-time jobs in the NFL or college football, tops in the nation.


  • No NFL experience.
  • Fitzgerald only really knows Northwestern’s culture having played there and spent most of his coaching career at the school. This has provided him with little experience dealing with the types of egos and personalities of big money NFL stars.
  • Northwestern is a very low profile job. While nominally in the Chicago media market, Northwestern football is an afterthought. They only are in the spotlight when they are surprisingly good, and nobody cares when they are bad. It is very different running an NFL team in New York.

The Bottom Line:

Fitzgerald became a head coach at a young age. He was promoted to the job in 2006 when then Northwestern head coach Randy Walker died suddenly of a heart attack.

His record is impressive. Winning 57% of your games at a place like Northwestern is very different from winning 57% of your games at a place with Ohio State. Fitzgerald’s school lacks the resources of his competitors, and he has to deal with academic restrictions for the players he can bring in.

I think he is a really good coach and respect his work, but part of me feels like he would be a fish out of water in New York running an NFL team.