Wisconsin Football: Jim Leonhard should be the next head coach
Madison, Wis. – Hey Alexa, play ‘Jimmy Cooks.’
pull up and you know it’s us, the bass jumpin’ pic.twitter.com/dZ5qQU527p
It’s fair to say that the season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Wisconsin football program, and that’s putting it mildly. A disappointing 2-3 start led to the surprise firing of long-time head coach Paul Chryst and the promotion of Jim Leonhard to replace him, at least in the interim.
Since the big change, coach Leonhard has given the program renewed hope and led Wisconsin to a 2-1 record, with wins on the road at Northwestern and at home against Purdue. Perhaps more importantly, he’s injected the team with newfound energy and has them playing some of their best ball of the season.
After a whirlwind start to the 2022 campaign, the Wisconsin Badgers (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) were finally able to take a collective sigh of relief during the bye week and refocus for the home stretch.
Interim head coach Jim Leonhard made it clear that he intended to address the team during the bye week, lay out the expectations for the present, and help share his vision for the program moving forward.
“Part of my message last week was we need to know who’s in and who’s out, and make it clear,” Leonhard said. “If you’re a leader, lead. If you want to be a huge part of what we got going on here but you’re not a leader, grab onto somebody going the right direction. If you’re on the fence or out, let me know, please. That’s the fastest way to get things rallied and get things calmed down is knowing who’s on your side.”
Coach Leonhard, for myriad reasons, is the right man for the job. Today, BadgerNotes lays out why now is the right time to remove his interim tag and officially begin the Jim Leonhard era…
Strong ties to the program
Make no mistake; coach Leonhard is the overwhelming favorite to become the program’s next head coach. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time before Chris McIntosh removes the interim tag.
Jimmy Leonhard is known as the golden boy at the University of Wisconsin. He played for UW from 2001-04, beginning his career as a walk-on, and finishing as a three-time All-American at safety. Leonhard parlayed that collegiate success into a decade-long NFL career before enjoying a meteoric rise through the college coaching ranks – assuming the role of Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator after just one season as the team’s defensive backs coach.
Leonhard quickly became one of the country’s most accomplished and well-respected coordinators, making him a popular name for nearly every open head coaching vacancy.
It has long been assumed that Leonhard was the head coach in waiting, and I have a sneaking suspicion that UW felt they were in danger of losing him, sparking the need to make a change and see what they had before making a long-term commitment.
If you’re Wisconsin AD Chris McIntosh, you only move on from a head coach as successful as Paul Chryst if you know your next move. Thankfully for UW, that man was already in-house. You won’t find another candidate on the open market who understands the culture of the Wisconsin football program that also relates to the players the way he does.
Allows Jim Leonhard to get a jump start on the 2023 season
With the early signing period just around the corner and the coaching staff actively out on the recruiting trail, now seems like the perfect time to remove the interim tag and name Jim Leonhard, the Wisconsin Badgers head coach moving forward.
Jimmy said it best himself, “traditions don’t die when you adapt.”
Under Leonhard, Wisconsin will continue pursuing the same type of kids with which the program has found success. However, he’s going to put his own spin on things. If Athletic Director Chris McIntosh wants to put the program in the best position to succeed, it doesn’t make sense to wait much longer.
For UW to rebound next season, he needs to decide on Leonhard’s future in short order so he can retain the current players, recruit the ones they’ll need, and begin the search for coaches that fit the direction he intends to move the program.
Coach Leonhard has his own vision for the future and deserves every opportunity to begin putting his imprint on the program. That means selling current players on that vision, selling recruits, hiring his own coaching staff, and getting a head start on scouring the transfer portal.
If Wisconsin makes this move in the coming weeks, I’m confident Wisconsin will contend to win the Big Ten West next season.
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