Don Brown Fires Back at Critics of Michigan's Defensive Players

don brown michigan defensive coordinator

Don Brown Fires Back at Critics of Michigan's Defensive Players

Football

Don Brown Fires Back at Critics of Michigan's Defensive Players

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — If you’re a Michigan fan tweeting at defensive players, telling them that they need to play better based off giving up 17 points to Northwestern in the early goings of Saturday’s game, congratulations: you’ve got a new enemy in Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown.

It’s not that Michigan’s defense has been fielding criticism despite having the nation’s top total defense, but there’s been a subset of fans that have been negative about every little thing that could go wrong with this team. Every big pass play, every touchdown given up, every blown coverage hasn’t just gotten a reaction — it’s gotten an overreaction.

It’s been so over the top in recent weeks that cornerback David Long tweeted about it, basically telling the critics where they could go.

And his defensive coordinator concurs, saying, if people want to attack someone, they should attack him.

“Here’s what I care about: be critical of the old guy – don’t be critical of the players now!” Brown said. “That’s crossing the line now! In my opinion. That could be a topic where we could stand here and argue. All they do is do what they’re asked.

“What a beautiful statement that I just made! Do you realize how little gross error we have? It’s really a testament to the guys that I coach, that they’re trying their tail off to do whatever we tell them to do.”

That’s not only it. Michigan has the nation’s top defense through five games, the nation’s fourth-rated pass defense — which is averaging 4 yards less per game than a year ago — and the nation’s seventh-rated run defense, up significantly from a year ago, and the 11th scoring defense.

Yet, it’s not good enough for some.

After the 2016 Rutgers game, where the Wolverines destroyed the Scarlet Knights 78-0 and didn’t allow a first down until the fourth quarter, the expectation for some is that that should be the norm.

Even pre-dating Brown’s tenure at Michigan, there’s been an attitude that the maize and blue should shutout every opponent, when a DJ Durkin-led unit did it three straight games — to BYU, Maryland and Northwestern.

But that’s not the reality of football.

However, here’s this reality: Saturday’s game was Michigan’s second-biggest comeback on the road in school history. For the biggest, you have to go back to 2003, when Michigan played at Minnesota on a Friday night. The John Navarre-led offense managed to erase the 28-7 3rd quarter deficit to retake the lead, 38-35.

Both teams were ranked for that game, and some critics are quick to point out that Northwestern wasn’t this time around, and that the Wildcats are now 1-3. But as Brown says, he doesn’t make the schedule. He just plays the teams on it, and his unit still manages to hold offenses to significantly less than their averages.

Michigan did the same to Northwestern, holding an outfit that got 401, 381 and 491 to just 202 yards — 97 of which were in the last three quarters.

A slow start? Maybe, yes. But Brown isn’t changing his philosophy for anyone. He’s going to stay aggressive, stay multiple, and trust his players. Mistakes made are on him, as he says, and his defense isn’t perfect. There’s still a lot of room to grow.

And they plan to continue to do so.

“We’ve played five games,” Brown said. “I don’t make the schedule! I’m just asked to compete in the schedule. Compare how we’ve done against the opponents’ offense and how other people have done. Take a look at that one! And just kind of see how we – number one and this and that – I’m gonna be honest with you: I’ve been a part of that for four years in a row, around that for some point in time. Know what matters? It doesn’t matter at the end of the day! It matters at the end, when you can sit down and go, ‘Alright, what do we got to fix? Well, we’ve got to take care of these vertical routes? We’ve gotta do this. We’ve gotta do –’ It’s a measuring stick that helps you try to keep – you try to squeeze it out all the time, okay? And now, it’s like how do we stay aggressive? Because the day they say – [pats on the arm, mimicking being told to lay down defensively] – I’m good. Have a nice day! And, I think if you said that to the players, they’d have my back on that one.

“To do that, there’s a lot of time invested, a lot of scheme, there’s a lot of repetitions, and you’re just trying to squeeze out as much as you can. And if you do that, it gives you a better chance to win the football game. That’s all we’re searching for is to try to find a way to win the football game at the end of the day and move on to the next week. Sometimes it’s a relief and sometimes it’s a joy. I’m just saying – I think it was Dave (Ablauf) who said it to me: second-biggest comeback on the road in Michigan history. I kinda like all that stuff. That’s a tribute to the guys, because a lot of groups at that point in time [puts hands together, in a washing motion]: ‘I’m good! Let’s go home!’ Some guys – not so good. (Our guys) are going to continue to fight, and I just think it’s a testament to our head football coach and the program that he’s developed here. That’s just me.”

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