Jim Leonhard has been at the helm of the defense for the Wisconsin Badgers for four seasons. During that time, the Badgers have allowed just 299.9 yards per game (fourth in the country) and allowed just 17.4 points per game (ninth). Simply put, they have consistently been one of the top units in the country.
Badger fans have long feared that his success would draw attention from bigger programs in college football and get him to leave his home for a shot to run a program. Leonhard has been adamant that he is happy where he is, but I’m not sure everyone buys that. If a big enough opportunity shows itself, he would have to take it, right?
Well, that opportunity might be here. The Packers have parted ways with their defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. This is an attractive job because the Packers were a game away from the Super Bowl. They have the top offense in the NFL led by the probable MVP in Aaron Rodgers. On the defensive side of the ball, they have some very nice players. Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, Za’Darius Smith, and Darnell Savage make up a young group of star players on defense. This is a job a lot of coaches will want.
Since Pettine was fired, Jim Leonhard was a popular name to throw around, but no one really knew if anything would actually come of it. On Tuesday morning, Packers beat writer, Rob Demovsky reported a few names that are interviewing for the Packers’ opening, and Jim Leonhard was one of them.
I think it is worth noting, that Jim Leonhard is considered a Mike Petting ‘disciple.’ He spent 10 seasons in the NFL, and six of those were with Pettine. It’s safe to say Leonhard learned a lot about his defensive scheme from Pettine. Now that doesn’t mean he runs his defense exactly as Pettine did. If that were the case, I doubt the Packers would be seriously interested in hiring Leonhard.
I know we’d all love to see Jim Leonhard spend his entire coaching career with the Badgers, but I think we all knew this was a possibility. Paul Chryst is just 55 years old. I don’t think he’s going to be done coaching anytime soon. Eventually, I think Leonhard would want the chance to run his own program or jump to the NFL.
If Leonhard were to get the Packers job, it would be bittersweet for a lot of Wisconsin sports fans. We love him where he is at, but jumping from the Badgers to the Packers is something that we never see. We would still be cheering for him, he would just be wearing different colors.