Michigan football reportedly fires defensive coordinator Don Brown after five seasons

Wolverines search for new defensive coordinator after 2-4 season

Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown reacts to a fourth quarter penalty during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ohio State defeated Michigan 56-27.
Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown reacts to a fourth quarter penalty during the game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ohio State defeated Michigan 56-27. (2019 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Michigan football has reportedly fired defensive coordinator Don Brown following the team’s worst showing during his five-year tenure.

The decision comes after a difficult 2-4 season that saw Michigan fall from its pedestal as one of the consistently dominant defensive teams in the nation.

READ: Michigan’s depleted defense loses 2 of top commits on National Signing Day

After he arrived at Michigan in 2016, “Dr. Blitz” orchestrated some extremely talented defenses in Ann Arbor. The team was ranked among the top 10 nationally for four straight seasons in terms of yards allowed per play.

This season, Michigan dropped to 56th in that regard, and while some of those struggles were due to attrition -- star defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye and linebacker Cam McGrone all missed significant time with injury and top cornerback Ambry Thomas opted out of the 2020 season -- the dropoff was simply too steep for Brown to overcome.

Michigan allowed at least 24 points in every single game this season. A poor Michigan State team racked up 449 yards and 27 points in a rivalry game. Wisconsin dropped 49 points on the Wolverines before mustering just 20 points total in its next three games. Indiana scored 38 points and gained 460 yards. Rutgers -- albeit in a triple overtime game -- finished with 42 points and 486 yards against Michigan. An 0-5 Penn State team marched into the Big House and put up 417 yards on Brown’s unit.

Brown was already on thin ice after the last two Ohio State games, when the Buckeyes scored 62 and 56 points on Michigan. The consistently lackluster performances in 2020 -- even during a pandemic-shortened season -- made it clear change was necessary.

For a defensive coordinator who makes his living on pressuring quarterbacks, Brown simply couldn’t do so the last two years, especially against decent competition. The defensive tackle position has been especially problematic since 2018, but even the defensive ends and linebackers stopped getting to the quarterback.

While the secondary improved throughout the season, it, too, had struggles. Most notably, Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi had a career game passing over the Wolverines’ cornerbacks.

It’s unclear if Michigan will make any other staff changes. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is currently deliberating with athletic director Warde Manuel about his own future, as his contract is expiring after next season.


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