Jim Leonhard explains why he turned down Packers coordinator offer – Packers Wire
Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard was close to taking the same job with Matt LaFleur and the Green Bay Packers, but his love of the Badgers football program and desire to stay in Madison ultimately led him to turn down the offer on Friday.
Leonhard spoke with Tom Oates and Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal about the process and why he eventually decided to state at Wisconsin.
“It was me choosing UW,” Leonhard told Oates and Wilde. “I want to stay at UW. I want to be at this level right now. Extremely flattered. Awesome opportunity. But it was not the right time for me to go back to the NFL.”
Leonhard, 38, was a walk-on defensive back at Wisconsin in 2001. He went on to be a three-time All-American and three-time All-Big Ten selection before carving out a 10-year NFL career. In 2016, he joined the Wisconsin coaching staff as a defensive backs coach and was promoted one year later to defensive coordinator.
His ties to Madison are strong, but Leonhard said he was “about out the door,” signaling how close he was to taking the Packers’ job, and he even talked contract numbers with LaFleur this week. The two met twice, once virtually and once in person, per Oates and Wilde.
Leonhard described himself as a “longshot” to leave Madison going into the process, but he was intrigued by the opportunity to coordinate an NFL defense for a Super Bowl contender and went through the full interview process with LaFleur.
In the end, staying with Wisconsin – and continuing to build and guide the Badgers football program while keeping his young family in Madison – kept Leonhard from taking the step to the NFL.
“I know the NFL. I know the good, I know the bad, being in there for 10 years. I understand what the NFL is. It’s exciting. Right now, I just feel like UW is the right place. I’m not saying it will always be. But right now, this is where I want to be, at this level, with this group of kids,” Leonhard said.
Under Leonhard’s guidance over the last five years, the Wisconsin defense ranks top five nationally in points, total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, completion percentage and third down conversions, per Zach Heilprin.
Wisconsin finished only 4-3 during a pandemic-riddled 2020 season but finished with wins over Minnesota and Wake Forest.