Goodbye, Don Brown

Goodbye, Don Brown

December 22, 2020
Don Brown (image via Freep)

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Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has been dismissed by the program.

Michigan’s defensive finishes during Brown’s tenure:

  • 2016: #1 (tied with Alabama) in total defense, #2 in yards/play, #2 in scoring
  • 2017: #3 in total defense, #6 in yards/play, #13 in scoring
  • 2018: #2 in total defense, #8 in yards/play, #16 (tied with Utah) in scoring
  • 2019: #11 in total defense, #10 in yards/play, #25 in scoring
  • 2020: #84 in total defense, #56 (tied with Troy) in yards/play, #96 in scoring

Hit the jump for more.

The decline for Michigan has been pretty steady. I don’t necessarily blame Brown for the precipitous drop in 2020. It’s not his fault that Ambry Thomas opted out and arguably the two best players on defense got injured early in the season (Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson). My personal belief is that if Brown returned in 2021, the defense would have rebounded somewhat. But would it have been enough?

Regardless, someone has to answer for Michigan’s abysmal season. And if it’s not the head coach, coordinator heads have to roll. If you’re going to hold players accountable and bench them (such as quarterback Joe Milton), then you have to hold coaches accountable and let them go when they’re not performing.

Some people have tried to blame one single thing for Brown’s downfall, like a refusal to recruit defensive tackles (not true), a refusal to recruit cornerbacks (not true), recruiting the northeast (overblown), etc.

Like with anything, Brown’s “failure” was a combination of things. He gave up too many points to Ohio State in 2018 and 2019. His defensive players lacked confidence and motivation in 2020. The defense was not prepared for Michigan State in 2020. His messing around with the 3-3-5 was nonsensical. Ultimately, I think the MSU game in 2020 was the nail in the coffin, because Michigan quite simply didn’t adjust throughout the game.

It also didn’t help that Michigan was unable to put any kind of decent pass rusher on the field once Paye and Hutchinson got hurt. Brown (and defensive line coach Shaun Nua) should have someone else on the roster who can get after the quarterback, whether it’s Luiji Vilain, David Ojabo, Jaylen Harrell, etc. In past years Michigan has had a few guys who can get pressure (blitzing inside linebackers, Taco Charlton, Chase Winovich, Noah Furbush, Josh Uche, Rashan Gary, etc.), but Michigan in 2020 had nobody except its starting defensive ends who could generate an organic pass rush. They finished #12 out of 14 Big Ten teams in sacks per game (1.5), and they had two games with 0 sacks and two different games with 0 quarterback hurries.

Anyway, I believe that Don Brown has some good coaching years left in him, and someone is going to get a good defensive coordinator.

As for Michigan? I’ve heard lots of talk about recently fired Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason, who worked for Jim Harbaugh for one year at Stanford in 2010. Over the years there has been a lot of talk about Harbaugh getting the band back together from one of his previous stops, and that has not been the case most of the time. No coach on the current staff is a former player or coach from a previous Harbaugh stop, and there have only been a few cases of that overall (Pep Hamilton, Tim Drevno, Greg jackson, D.J. Durkin).

The two most recent coordinators (Brown and offensive coordinator Josh Gattis) were both brought in with no direct connection to Harbaugh.

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