Don’t expect the talk of the next Chicago Bears head coach to die down anytime soon. Or at least until after this Sunday. If they beat Green Bay it will simmer for a bit to see if John Fox really has them on the right path. On the other hand if they lose? Rest assured the calls for Fox’s head will be deafening. Thus the search for his replacement will go on.

Most of the big names have been covered at this point. Jim Harbaugh, Josh McDaniels, Jon Gruden, Matt Patricia and Dave Toub are among the popular names for obvious reasons. Some are proven offensive minds who can take Mitch Trubisky to the next level. Others hold deep ties to the organization or have a near-flawless track record of success.

So maybe it’s time to consider the dark horse. The sleepers. It’s not like this organization hasn’t done it before. Ryan Pace wasn’t exactly predicted. There’s certainly a chance they might have eyes for somebody most other teams aren’t looking at. Chief among those names that has gained a sort of cult follow is just 20 miles from Halas Halas.

Could Pat Fitzgerald be the next Bears head coach?

Ready for a wild stat? In 97 years of existence, the Bears have hired one coaches who came from the college ranks. That was Ralph Jones back in 1930. He eventually led them to a championship in 1932, his last season. Since then every head coach the team has had came from the professional level. A span of 84 years and 13 different coaches.

Could the time finally be here to break the streak? Most would believe Harbaugh is the man who would do that. However, there is a slowly growing chorus that feels Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is long overdue for an opportunity. He’s been leading that program for 12 seasons, and with more success than any before him. His record stands at 83-65 with seven bowl appearances. He’s the only coach in program history with two bowl victories and two double-digit win seasons.

Fitzgerald is a balanced coach with youth and experience

There are many aspects of Fitzgerald that could make him a viable option. His long run as a head coach makes experience a non-issue. He played both linebacker and slot receiver in college, so he has understanding of offense and defense. He’s a College Football Hall of Famer and to top it off just 42-years old. He has accomplished this much and is only now entering his prime.

He also seems to have an eye for quarterbacks. Under his watch both Mike Kafka and Trevor Siemian went on to get drafted. His latest project, Clayton Thorson is projected to go that route as well. Imagine what he might do with access to NFL talent.

Last but not least, Fitzgerald is an Illinois-native. He was born in Orland Park and has stayed close to home throughout his football career. It’s felt that no NFL team would be able to pry him away. That is unless the team kept him close to family and friends. The Bears would obviously make sense.

The organization has certainly enjoyed the fruits of his labor already. Former defensive end Corey Wootton came from Fitzgerald’s program, as did special teams ace Sherrick McManis. In the 10 drafts during his run, Northwestern has seen 11 players drafted. In the 10 drafts prior to his arrival? There were zero.

It’s clear that this is a rock solid head coach. The question is will his methods work at the NFL level? There’s only one way to find out.