There's a theory among many who know Pat Fitzgerald that he would leave Northwestern for only one job — the Bears.
Now there's some buzz about Fitzgerald and the Bears' top rival. And there are enough connections between Fitzgerald and the Packers to think it's within the realm of possibility.
A tweet and story from Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel showed a picture of Fitzgerald with these words: "Next coach could come from the college ranks." Silverstein is highly respected, a two-time Wisconsin sportswriter of the year who has covered the Packers since 1989.
The story mentioned eight coaches, including four from the college ranks: Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, Stanford's David Shaw, Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley and Fitzgerald.
On Fitzgerald, Silverstein wrote: "It's almost a lock the Packers will contact Fitzgerald, who came up through the ranks on the defensive side of the ball but has a high-octane offense. (Packers President and CEO Mark) Murphy was athletic director at the school and surprised many people when he picked Fitzgerald to coach the team when Randy Walker died of a heart attack before the 2006 season. Fitzgerald has helped establish the Wildcats as a football contender, taking them all the way the Big Ten championship game Saturday against Ohio State. In 13 seasons, he has 95 wins and has led Northwestern to eight bowl games."
The high-octane part is a stretch, given that over the last three seasons, the NU offense has ranked 87th, 56th and 107th in scoring and 73rd, 55th and 106th in yards.
But the connections are legit. Murphy had the vision to make Fitzgerald the youngest FBS coach at 31.
Murphy and his personnel officials are so fond of Northwestern players, they have four on the 53-man roster: safety Ibraheim Campbell, fullback Danny Vitale, defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster and defensive end Dean Lowry.
Fitzgerald's agent, Bryan Harlan, is the son of legendary Packers executive Bob Harlan, who hired Murphy in December 2007 to succeed him as CEO and who remains the team's chairman emeritus.
Murphy on Sunday fired Mike McCarthy, surprising many in the league by sacking the team's Super Bowl-winning coach of 13 seasons with four games to play.
Murphy installed offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as interim head coach and said, "We will immediately begin the process of selecting the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers."
The Journal Sentinel reported that the Packers made the move now in part to "get a jump on identifying and researching potential candidates."
"We have history and tradition," Murphy said at a news conference Monday afternoon. "The resources we have available for coaches — it's an attractive job."
Fitzgerald replied to a text for comment by saying he's out recruiting and adding, "GO CATS!"
NU football is essentially off this week after returning from Indianapolis, where the Wildcats put a scare into Ohio State in the Big Ten title game before falling 45-24.
Fitzgerald signed a 10-year extension in 2017 that pays him well. He is believed to make between $3.5 million and $4 million and has tight relationships with athletic director Jim Phillips and university President Morton Schapiro. Northwestern also has among the best athletic facilities in the nation, having opened the $270 million Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center this year.