Longtime Badger Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard may be stepping away from the team — he will soon be interviewing with the Green Bay Packers, according to Madison.com.
Leonhard was previously a candidate for the head coaching job at Illinois back in December, showing the coach may be shopping around for a new position in the football world.
While the offer may appear enticing, Leonhard has previously called his job at UW his “dream,” a position that will be hard to leave at will.
“This was kind of the dream job to come back and coach,” Leonhard told reporters when asked about his future with the Badgers. “I understand what UW’s all about… I grew up here.”
The Badgers have seen great success on defense under Leonhard, with consistent rankings among the best in college football — allowing just 17 points per game in Leonhard’s four years as Defensive Coordinator.
During his time as a player, Leonhard racked up 21 interceptions and 120 tackles, solidifying himself as one of the most prolific defensive players in Badger history. He is also the namesake of the Jim Leonhard award — an award given to the top senior defensive-back in Wisconsin high school football.
The Packers will conduct many interviews with coaches, Leonhard among them, to replace defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The organization announced last week it was parting ways with Pettine at the end of the 2020 season, as Pettine’s defense with the Packers was lackluster at times and potentially contributed to why the Packers did not advance to the Super Bowl this season.
Interestingly enough, Pettine actually coached Leonhard for six of his ten years in the NFL — a commonality which may allow Leonhard to fit well with the Packers team chemistry, making him an attractive candidate to head coach Matt LaFleur.
Other candidates for the position are Browns Defensive Line coach Chris Kiffin, Saints Defensive Line coach Ryan Nielson, Eagles Defensive Line coach Matt Burke and Packers Defensive Backs coach Jerry Gray.