Could Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald be a candidate for the Lions vacancy?

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Jeff Risdon
·2 min read
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One of the more interesting notes to scroll across the crawl on the Sunday morning NFL preview shows involves Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald. It seems Fitzgerald’s name has been thrown in the hat for NFL head coaching options, presumably including Detroit’s.

It’s an interesting idea, and the recent hiring of Chris Spielman should lend it more credence. Like Spielman, Fitzgerald was a hard-nosed linebacker who thrived on a ridiculously high football IQ and intensity in the Big Ten. Injuries robbed Fitzgerald of any NFL dreams, so he found a home at his beloved alma mater.

For my money, Fitzgerald is the best coach in the Big Ten. Winning at Northwestern is not easy. It was essentially unprecedented before Fitzgerald got there as a player and drove the team’s renaissance in the 1990s. They’re a small, private school with no real major sports heritage, yet Fitzgerald’s Wildcats have consistently competed with the big boys with the big budgets in the conference. Nobody in college football more consistent;y does more with less than Fitzgerald.

They did that on Saturday, scaring the bejeezus out of Spielman’s alma mater before ultimately falling. This was another example of what Fitzgerald has created at Northwestern: an upstart culture or mental toughness, thorough preparation, a natural tight-knit togetherness and maximizing the ability of the key players on the team.

Sure sounds like exactly what the doctor ordered for the Lions, eh?

I don’t know how well Fitzgerald’s style would work away from Evanston. He doesn’t have the Rolodex of NFL-ready assistants and coordinators right off the bat. I think he’d be more apt to stay in Chicago with the Bears for a potential opening there than he would to head to Chicago, too. But it’s worth it for Spielman, Barry Sanders and the rest of the search committee to at least interview Fitzgerald.

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