The Northwestern Wildcats college football program has been in the spotlight since two former players came forward to recount their days with the team and the extreme hazing allegations they levied against the program. Following the release of these players' experiences, the program ultimately decided to part ways with head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who had been the head coach since 2006 and on the staff since 2001.
Fitzgerald led the team to just a 1-11 record last year and had just one winning season in the last four years. Northwestern's first game of the 2023 season is at noon ET on the road against Rutgers on Sept. 3, and they need a new head coach at some point. In the meantime, Northwestern defensive coordinator David Braun will serve as interim head coach.
Here, we'll look at three candidates that could make sense for the program with nine winning seasons and three double-digit win seasons under Fitzgerald.
David Braun, Current Interim Head Coach
— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 13, 2023
With the season so close, the Northwestern Wildcats could stick with their current acting interim head coach, David Braun.
Braun, hired by the program in January after coming over from North Dakota State, has been a football coach in various capacities since 2008 with Winona State. Throughout his college coaching career, he's primarily been on the defensive side of the ball.
With North Dakota State, Braun's defense allowed just 15.3 points per game and less than 300 yards. He had the highest-scoring defense in his first season with the team, with more than 12 points coming from them. He was also the 2021 FCS Coordinator of the Year.
Because of the severity of the situation, it might be best to stick with someone already integrated with the program and evaluate after this season.
Tommy Rees, Alabama Offensive Coordinator
Rees is currently the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide, but could he potentially head back to where his coaching career began?
If the name Tommy Rees sounds familiar to you, it's because he was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback from 2010-2013. He was on the then-Washington Redskins for just one week after going undrafted in the 2014 NFL Draft.
After not making it into the NFL, Rees was an offensive graduate assistant with Northwestern in 2015. Since leaving Northwestern, he spent one season in the NFL as an offensive assistant with the then-San Diego Chargers before coaching at Notre Dame as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Rees is just 31, but his youth could provide a more player-friendly culture to which these younger players would respond. This could be a possibility next season after Rees spends a season under the tutelage of head coach Nick Saban.
Mike Kafka, New York Giants Offensive Coordinator
What better way for Northwestern to put this horrible saga behind them than to somehow lure former Wildcats quarterback and incumbent Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka?
Kafka, 35, was a player in the NFL from 2010-15, appearing on the following teams:
- Philadelphia Eagles
- New England Patriots
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Minnesota Vikings
- Tennessee Titans
- Cincinnati Bengals
After leaving the NFL, Kafka, like Rees, was a graduate assistant in 2016, just one year after Rees.
Unlike Rees, though, Kafka has stayed in the NFL, coaching with the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants.
Kafka has been the Giants offensive coordinator since 2022. With Kafka as offensive coordinator, the Giants were 18th in points per game at 21.2, and quarterback Daniel Jones had the best season of his career, completing 67.2% of his passes for 3,205 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions, and added 708 yards on the ground across 120 carries and seven touchdowns.
Looking back at Kafka's time as a player at Northwestern, he was on the team in the first season Fitzgerald was head coach. He appeared in 30 games over four seasons. He appeared in 13 in his senior season, completing 64.8% of his passes for 3,430 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
Something tells me Kafka would love to return to his alma mater.
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.