Don Brown taking the fall for Michigan football clears the way for Jim Harbaugh extension
In the exhausts of uncertainty, grief, and failure, the man nicknamed Dr. Blitz fired.
The news came suddenly like a screaming rusher from the edge. Don Brown, the Michigan defensive coordinator, was the first victim of the most painful season of Jim Harbaugh's tenure.
[Here's Why Michigan Makes the Right Move by Firing Don Brown]
The sloppy quarterback game undermined an offense that was for stretches without a punch. But it was Brown's defense that saw the greatest regression - it fell from the 25th in the nation in points to the 96th in a year.
Thus, Michigan, who ended the 2-4 season, got to streamline Brown's removal as Harbaugh's status with the program remains in the air.
Michigan Defense Coordinator Don Brown speaks to players during the first half against the state of Ohio at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, November 24, 2018.
Harbaugh has one year left and is in talks about an extension. Brown's resignation is the clearest sign, but there will be a resolution that will ban Michigan's head coach after 2021.
After all, what is the point of making personnel changes when the boss is eventually removed?
However, it can be argued that Brown is a convenient scapegoat as he headed the sub-par unit facing the sagging offense that Harbaugh's fingerprints are all over.
[Was Michigan's Don Brown the "scapegoat"? Fans debate on social media]
But Brown got no mercy that bizarre year given his track record in Michigan.
After being hired in December 2015, Brown saw immediate success with the Wolverines finishing in the top three overall defense for each of his first three seasons at Ann Arbor.
During the same period, the Michigan offense never had a final rank above 50 in average yards per game.
Michigan Defense Coordinator Don Brown was on the sideline in the second half against Nebraska on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Because of this, Brown's agent Gary O'Hagan is confident that Brown will be coveted in the open market.
"I think there will be some teams that are interested in him," said O'Hagan. “He definitely wants to train more. He's a real professional and doesn't duck. "
Rather, Brown has weathered relentless criticism following Michigan's last two encounters with rival Ohio State when his unit suffered bleeding in all territories, surrendering 15 touchdowns and 1,144 yards in two resounding defeats.
RECRUIT SOUNDS OFF: Why Michigan Four-Star Commit Was Blinded By Brown's Dismissal: 'Not Pleased'
The scars from these setbacks were permanent and marred Brown's work, which had been cheered for so long.
"The game in Ohio was a huge disadvantage for us," Brown said in May. "I'm not going to live in this world. And I don't want the players to live in this world. We acknowledge it, we move on and hopefully I'll do a better job. Because I don't blame the players. They blame the old man here, OK? I better get our boys down and I promise I will. "
But Brown never got that opportunity during one season putting up a patchwork defense exhausted by opt-outs, injuries, transfers, and natural wear and tear. At times, Brown was forced to use multiple walk-ons, which exposed U-M's shortcomings in recruiting and roster management. The diminished talent was particularly evident in Brown's man-based scheme, where defenders often have to win their individual matchups. Secondary school, by and large, did not. It created an interception and was vulnerable in the deep halves - most passing games of 30 yards or more in the Big Ten were conceded, although only six games were played.
Michigan Defense Coordinator Don Brown warms up the players before action against Maryland on Saturday, October 6, 2018 at Michigan Stadium.
As head coach, Harbaugh is ultimately responsible for assembling a unit that was not equipped to run Brown's system or experienced enough to adapt to different coverage principles.
[Signs of Michigan's collapse were visible last year. Almost everyone ignored them]
But Brown falls here.
His departure will not cure Michigan's suffering. The problems are deeper and wider.
But his move gives the university an opportunity to keep Harbaugh while promoting the idea of change.
If it had to be that way, Dr. Lightning see it coming.
Contact Rainer Sabin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin. Read more about the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans and subscribe to our Big Ten newsletter.
This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Michigan Football Drops Don Brown for the miserable 2020 season
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