Saturday, January 13, 2007

Corwin Brown, Come On Down | by Jay

Looks like the cat is out of the bag, even without an official hiring notice (nor a public pink slip for Rick Minter yet). Per numerous sources including the Chicago Tribune, Corwin Brown is your new Irish defensive coordinator.

Brown, formerly the defensive backs coach for the New York Jets, is expected to be named the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. It is not clear whether current defensive coordinator Rick Minter will stay on in another capacity or leave the program.

Brown has been the defensive backs coach for the Jets since 2004. He spent the previous three seasons as a special teams coach at Virginia.

Brown and coach Charlie Weis have known each other for more than a decade. Brown, a safety, played for the New England Patriots from 1993-96, during which time Weis was variously the tight ends, running backs and wide receivers coach for head coach Bill Parcells.

The two were also together with the New York Jets in 1997-98, Brown as a player, Weis as the wide receivers coach. Weis became offensive coordinator in 1998.

Brown played high school football at Chicago's Julian High School, where he was an all-state player. He played college football at Michigan.
The Sun-Times also put out a release, as well as Eric Hansen writing for MSNBC. Nobody has offical comments from either Brown or ND just yet.

Among all the possible coaches being bandied about over the past few weeks, Brown's name just popped up the day before yesterday. And yet here he is, the new defensive coordinator of the Fighting Irish. Nobody saw this coming. My first reaction upon getting the news was saying, "Who?" -- and then immediately dialing up Google.

The picture came into sharp focus pretty quickly. For better or worse, we just hired the polar opposite of Rick Minter: younger versus elder, loquacious versus reserved, urban Chicago versus Texas, novice versus veteran, black versus white. When Brown graduated college, Minter had already been a coordinator for nine years. We jump from a guy in the twilight of his career to a guy just starting out.

Talk about a fast track. Brown's been a coach all of six years, going from special teams at UVa to defensive backs in the pros and now to defensive coordinator at a major college program in rapid succession. He might have been here even sooner: rumor has it Charlie wanted to hire him in some capacity two years ago, when he first got the ND job.

There's tremendous risk in tabbing a rookie like Corwin Brown to head up a unit that requires such serious remediation, especially at a high-profile place like Notre Dame. While he's got experience in positional coaching, scouting, and gameplanning, he's still never been the primary architect of a defense nor has he ever called a game in the heat of battle. Make no mistake, this is a huge gamble on Charlie's part, and if Brown can't get the job done, it's going to reflect very poorly on Weis -- doubly so than if he had hired a proven commodity, like a Jim Bates or a Bo Pelini.

But it looks like a gamble worth taking. Throughout his career as both a player and a coach, Brown has been a natural leader and a serious student of the game. He was his team captain at Michigan his senior year, and in the pros he was a popular personality whose teammates were dismayed when coach Pete Carroll cut him:
"He's gonna be missed," said Whigham. "We have some very heavy shoes to fill around here now."

Whigham acknowledged that while he got much of the individual glory for the performance of the Pats' special teams last fall, Brown probably was deserving of at least a share of the Mackey Award he received. "Corwin has been captain of our special teams every year I've been here," observed the AFC's special teams player of the year. "Do you think that was by accident?"

Veteran fullback Sam Gash, who occupied a locker near Brown and who was a frequent victim of the safety in chess, said the Pats will have to make "a pretty difficult adjustment" this fall. "Corwin knew what he had to do on the field and he knew what you had to do, too, for the team to be successful," said Gash. "He wasn't afraid to speak up if he didn't like what he was seeing and guys respected him for that."

Perhaps, but no one respected Brown more than Hitchcock, who had a big brother-little brother relationship with the Chicago native. "He'd talk to me about what happened to him when Myron Guyton was brought in," said Hitchcock, referring to the former New York Giants' safety Parcells signed and installed as a starter ahead of Brown. "That was a tough experience for him, but he survived it. I guess what he was trying to tell me was that I could make it, too, if I was just willing to hang in there."

When he wasn't bucking up Hitchcock while sitting on opposite sides of the chessboard, Brown would be talking finances to the rookie.

"He was pursuing his MBA, you know, so he was always keying me in on what to do with my money," said Hitchcock. "Corwin is a great businessman who invested his money carefully. He knew how to put it away and he wanted to help me do that, too."

Among his other virtues, Brown was a presence in the community, especially in Boston's poor neighborhoods where he frequently appeared at assemblies and recreation centers to encourage young people to stay in school. "He did a lot of good things that didn't get reported," said Hitchcock. "That's going to be missed."
Brown adds an element of youth and energy that this staff has been lacking, and there's lots of exciting questions to ask as he takes the reins. What kind of scheme will he end up running? How will he mesh with Bill Lewis? Will he be a good recruiter? Will that pesky Michigan diploma interfere when it comes time to sell Notre Dame to recruits? How will the players respond to him?

Most importantly, how fast can he turn this thing around?

the file on Corwin Brown...

• Brown's parents were both teachers in the Chicago public school system.

• Brown was a very tough player as a safety at Michigan where he was a team captain and and first-team All-Big 10 as a senior. Here's a great photo of him from his senior year.

• Brown was an English major at Michigan.

• You might remember Brown from such notable ND highlights as Rocket's two returns in 1989 (at least we think it's him -- look for #20), and the play where Reggie Brooks gets knocked unconscious but still scores (still one of the most unbelievable runs in Irish history). Ironically, Brown was across the field from Rick Minter in that game in 1992, and had a big day for the skunkbears: 11 tackles, a forced fumble, a blocked field goal and a game-saving pass deflection. The game ended in a 17-17 tie.

• Brown was drafted by Bill Parcells and played four years for the Patiots under Parcells (and Charlie Weis). After being cut by Pete Carroll, he followed Parcells over to the Jets, signing a free agent contract in 1997.

• In '97 he was voted a Pro Bowl alternate, mostly on his reputation as a special teams demon.

• Parcells praised him as "one of the five toughest I ever coached."

• He was a volunteer coach at Division 1-AA Boston University while with the Patriots.

• As a player with the Jets, Brown worked with Jets’ coaches and scouts at the 1998 NFL Scouting Combine, evaluating college talent and helping to prepare for the draft.

• He went to the Lions as a free agent after the Jets, where he proceeded to knock the crap out of Keyshawn Johnson in what was voted the Lions' Play of the Year.

• After hanging up his cleats, Brown was hired by Al Groh as a Special Teams coach at Virginia. Here's his UVA bio.

• While at Virginia, Brown was known as an excellent recruiter and a key member of recruiting coordinator Al Golden's team. He was instrumental in getting safety Nate Lyles to commit to the Cavaliers out of Hubbard High School in Chicago, the same school that the currently-undecided recruit Robert Hughes attends.

• His first job in the NFL was an internship with the Patriots while still at UVA, where he met then-assistant Eric Mangini.

• In 2004, Herm Edwards of the Jets hired Brown as a special teams and assistant defensive backs coach, but Brown was promoted to head DB coach before training camp when Doug Graber left. Said Edwards at the time: "I like him, I like what he does. He had to work very hard as a player and made it with his intelligence and toughness.

• Jets defensive back Ray Mickens, in the curious position of having been a teammate of Brown's and now one of his players, anticipated his coaching success. "The situation might seem unusual for some of the rookies here. But Corwin knows what he's doing...I tell you what, Corwin Brown is going to be a great coach in this league."

• In 2006, Mangini would become the head coach of the Jets, and retain Brown as a defensive backs coach. (If you read any of the Jets pressers over the past few years, Mangini constantly mentions Corwin Brown and his impact on teaching the Jets secondary.)

• Brown is well-schooled in the 3-4 Defense, having coached it both at UVA and with the Jets, but also has experience in the Tampa Cover 2 favored by Herm Edwards.