New York Jets: Predicting a Pat Fitzgerald Coaching Staff for 2021

  • Brant Boyer
  • Jim Leonhard
  • New York Jets
  • Pat Fitzgerald
By Michael Pallas December 21, 2020 0 Comment
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Last week, we looked at what a Todd Monken and a Matt Campbell coaching staff for the New York Jets would look like. Today, we’ll look at what current Northwestern Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s staff would look like for the Jets. 

Fitzgerald took over the Northwestern Wildcats after the sudden death of then-coach Randy Walker. While his coaching career began in tragedy, his tenure with Northwestern has been anything but. He’s coached Northwestern to a 104-80 record, and they will be participating in their second Big 10 Championship Game during Fitzgerald’s tenure. Therefore, he would be an excellent head coach for the New York Jets

He may be a defensive-minded coach, but he’s a true leader. He would fit the mold of the head coach that oversees the staff rather than takes one side of the ball and has a “head coach” of the side of the ball approach. So, who would he bring over? Let’s take a look at his potential hires for his staff

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks: Mike Bajakian

As mentioned in the article about Todd Monken, Bajakian has experience at the NFL level as well. Bajakian spent 2018 as the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is also Pat Fitzgerald’s current offensive coordinator and acquitted himself well in that role this year. The Wildcats are 6-1 heading into the Big 10 title game, and they have a potent offense despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Running backs: Charles Huff

Sometimes in life, you have to make connections through people who know people, and this is one of those times. Huff is indirectly connected to Fitzgerald through Bajakian.

Huff has been the Alabama Crimson Tide’s Running Backs Coach since 2018. In 2018, Nick Saban hired Butch Jones, the former head coach of the Tennessee Volunteer, to be an Offensive Analyst. At Tennessee, Bajakian worked for Jones as his Offensive Coordinator. Therefore, Jones might recommend Huff to Bajakian, who could recommend Huff to Fitzgerald. Huff also has some NFL coaching experience, as he spent 2012 as an assistant RBs coach with the Buffalo Bills. 

Huff guided players like C.J. Spiller in the NFL and SaQuon Barkley and (currently) Najee Harris at the college level. In his one season at Mississippi State as an associate head coach, RBs coach, and running game coordinator, they were 20th in the nation in rushing.  

Wide Receivers: Hines Ward

Ward could be kept on, and there’s really no reason not to. The combination of his skills and knowledge can help bring out the best in what could be one of the youngest wide receiver groups in the NFL in 2021.

He will not only help them in the passing game. Ward was as hard-nosed as they come as a blocker as well. This can help the Jets’ WR group become one of the premier blocking groups in the NFL.

Tight Ends: Ben Steele

Steele coached on the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff with Bajakian. He’s had good tight end groups in his two NFL stops and is currently serving in that role in Atlanta.

Since Dan Quinn was let go, there’s a chance his staff will not survive the new coaching hire. If so, Steele is a good candidate to take over with Fitzgerald.

Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line: Brentson Buckner

Buckner was a defensive lineman in the NFL, and he’s been a good line coach in the NFL as well. He currently serves as the defensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals, but he worked with Mike Bajakian for one season in Tampa Bay.

In his four stops in the NFL, his lines have been among the best in the league. It’s time for Buckner to get a chance to be a play-caller, and Fitzgerald should be the guy to give him that shot.

Linebackers: Tim McGarigle

McGarigle is the only coach on the defensive side of the ball with a direct connection to Fitzgerald. He is currently the Linebackers Coach at Northwestern. Almost all of his coaching career has been at the college level coaching linebackers. His linebackers have been stellar. He also has one year at the NFL level as a Defensive Quality Control Coach with the Green Bay Packers.

Defensive Backs: Jim Leonhard

Fitzgerald’s tie to Leonhard is through current Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Hankwitz was the defensive coordinator for Wisconsin when Bret Bielema was the head coach, and Paul Cryst was the offensive coordinator. Cryst is now the head coach at Wisconsin where Leonhard is the defensive coordinator.

Leonhard played for Rex Ryan both in Baltimore and with the New York Jets. He was a hard-nosed safety and special teams guy. He has limited coaching experience but has shown to be a good play-caller at Wisconsin. Leonhard actually interviewed for the Los Angeles Rams’ vacancy at defensive coordinator this offseason. His NFL experience, coupled with his time at Wisconsin should give him the necessary tools to be an NFL coach.

Special Team Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach: Brant Boyer

Boyer is likely to be the only holdover from the current staff. There’s no reason to let him go since the special teams unit has done well. However, with that success comes the possibility that he would interview for head coaching positions. But, if he does not get hired elsewhere, the New York Jets should promote him to Assistant Head Coach as well.

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Michael has been covering the Jets since 2015 for various blogs, and he’s the host of Bleav in Jets.

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