ATLANTA — It has been an eventful month for Don Brown.
Well, a little more than a month, technically. 33 days ago, the defensive coordinator and the Michigan football team (10-2 overall, 8-1 Big Ten) went into Columbus and got housed by Ohio State, 62-39. It was the worst performance by a Brown-led defense since he arrived in Ann Arbor, and it was a surprise to most, as the Wolverines entered the game with the top-ranked defense in the country.
It is that last part that prompted the next Brown news. Just over two weeks ago, it was reported that Brown had interviewed for Temple’s vacant head coaching position. The job ultimately went to Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, but Brown’s interest in the vacancy was new for him.
And now, Brown is in Atlanta, preparing for the seventh-ranked Wolverines’ matchup with No. 10 Florida (9-3 overall, 6-3 SEC) in the Peach Bowl. Thursday, for the first time since the loss to the Buckeyes and the job rumors, Brown spoke to the media.
He was tempered — it was eight o’clock in the morning after all — but honest.
What was it about the Owls’ job that piqued Brown’s interest?
“Well, I talked to them. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t,” Brown said. “Obviously, I’m familiar with the area, in terms of, I can recruit up and down that eastern seaboard, from New England all the way to Florida.”
Does Brown really want to return to a head coaching position?
“In the right situation, if it occurred. But at the same time, not on anybody else’s terms but my own. Take that for what it’s worth. I’m not one of those guys that’s gonna try to play the cookie cutter game to fit myself in to what somebody wants.”
Now that the Temple job is out of the way, are Brown and Michigan negotiating a new contract to keep him around longer?
“Not that I know of.”
The questions and answers are important to the Wolverines and their future, because Brown is important to the program and its future.
Michigan has been at or near the top of the total defense rankings in each of Brown’s three seasons. What he said about recruiting with Temple is true if Brown is with the Wolverines too. Their current roster is proof of that.
The very backbone of Michigan’s 28-10 record in the last three seasons has been its defense, with Brown at the helm. His contract expires in 2022, but if his success with the Wolverines’ defense continues, these job offers could keep coming. And the potential pay raise for a head coaching spot give Brown leverage for a new contract if Michigan wants to keep him.
There is a bright side for the Wolverines. Brown’s general theme for his answers were back to his task at hand: beating the Gators on Saturday.
“I don’t live in the world of negativity,” Brown said. “You guys can. That’s up to you. But I’m not gonna live in the world of negativity. I’ve gotta move a defensive group forward that, despite it all, in my opinion, had a hell of a year. Disappointing, that one-game scenario. I’m not discounting that at all, but you’ve got to move on.”
And Brown will move on. Unless an unforeseen development arises, he is set to coach Michigan’s defense again next season.
This past month, though, has seen the first signs that Brown’s time in Ann Arbor may be limited.