In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “boy that escalated quickly.” Northwestern has fired head coach Pat Fitzgerald, and we have more on his complicated and tainted legacy here. For now, NU needs a new head coach, for the first time since 2006. Is New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka the guy?
Will things get Kafkaesque in Evanston, with a metamorphosis at the head coaching position?
Multiple outlets reporting that Northwestern has fired Pat Fitzgerald.
Surreal how typing those words seemed
-impossible on Thursday
-inevitable on Sunday.
— Paul M. Banks (@PaulMBanks) July 10, 2023
Well, his status as an alum makes things more conflicted and complicated. Now that Fitzgerald is gone, with very strong cause, a house cleaning will be underway in Ryan Field.
Athletic Director Dr. Derrick Gragg (whose continued silence on all this is deafening) should be on the chopping block too. His lack of leadership, on multiple levels, means he could be canned with cause too.
University President Michael Schill could lose his job as well.
What this all means is perhaps NU won’t be hiring an alum, at least not one that played under Fitzgerald, as the next head coach.
I get the reasoning here, and the emotional need to bring in a total outsider, but that seems pretty wrong in the case of Mike Kafka. The 35-year-old Chicago native is considered one of the fastest rising coaching prospects in the game.
What he accomplished last season with the Giants is pretty impressive.
What he did with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2018-2021 was even more impressive. When you’re the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, for that Pat Mahomes guy that you might have heard of…that’s what you call credentials.
Plus he’s a St. Rita grad with connections to the local recruiting pipeline. He also began his coaching career as a grad asst. at Northwestern, so he would most likely relish the opportunity to coach his alma mater. Then again he may want to angle himself for a NFL job instead.
Given the positive trajectory of his career arc, it may only be a couple years until those offers come in.
I understand why so many in the NU base may have some cause for concern, but that is more than canceled out by all the upside here. With the season not too far off, it is expected that NU goes with an interim, for this season, and then takes a year to figure it out.
Especially so given that Gragg, with his deer in the headlights routine, might not be making this hire. Or at least he should not be given the opportunity to do so. But no matter who has his finger on the button, Mike Kafka is the first person they should call.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.