Published reports, however, say the Detroit Lions will offer Brown their coordinator job in order to keep him. I hope those reports are wrong. I think Kippy Brown would be great for Tennessee's program ... and vice versa.
I was covering UT football for The Knoxville Journal when Brown served his first stint as a Vol aide from 1983-89, and I was covering UT football for Rocky Top News when he served his second tour of duty from 1993-94. I've seen a lot of Vol coaches come and go, and he's one of the best Tennessee has had.
Brown proved to be a superior recruiter during his two stints on The Hill. He's one of the most likable people you'll ever meet, blessed with the charisma needed to relate to young athletes and the earnest manner needed to win the trust of their parents. That's a winning combination on the recruiting trail.
Brown also is an exceptional position coach. He established Tennessee as "Wide Receiver U" by turning Clyde Duncan, Tim McGee, Thomas Woods, Anthony Miller, Alvin Harper, Anthony Morgan and Carl Pickens into all-star pass catchers. By the way, he recruited most of those guys.
Brown has 15 years of NFL coaching experience with the New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Bucs, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and the Lions. Obviously, he has some wrinkles he could add to Tennessee's offense.
Brown has coached running backs and receivers, but he has exhibited the organizational skills to be more than a position coach. That's why he carried the title assistant head coach at UT in 1993 and '94. That's why he served as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins in 1998 and '99, helping the team make the playoffs each year. He even has experience as a head coach, albeit it with the Memphis Maniax (2001) of the short-lived XFL.
I remember interviewing Kippy Brown during his most recent stint with the Vols. I asked why he left the New York Jets and came back to college coaching. He said his goal was to be a head coach someday, and serving as assistant head coach at UT would help facilitate that goal.
Tennessee can't promise Brown he'll succeed Fulmer but athletics director Mike Hamilton could promise Brown he'll be at the top of the list when potential successors are discussed. That might be enough to secure his services for a third stint on The Hill.
There is speculation that UT can't get Kippy without agreeing to hire his brother, Gerald. No problem. Gerald has the qualifications. He served as an administrative assistant at UT in the past and is currently assistant head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator for Ron Zook at Indiana. With UT likely to lose running backs coach Kurt Roper and tight ends coach Matt Luke, in addition to Cutcliffe and receivers coach Trooper Taylor, the Vols can find room for two Browns on their staff.
For what it's worth, here's how I'd like to see Tennessee's offensive staff line up for spring practice:
- Kippy Brown, offensive coordinator/receivers coach
- Greg Adkins, offensive line coach/running game coordinator
- Gerald Brown, running backs coach/special teams coordinator
- Randy Sanders, quarterbacks coach
- George Quarles, tight ends coach
I've already discussed the Brown brothers in depth, so I'll close with my thoughts on the remaining members of my dream staff:
Greg Adkins' outstanding work in 2007 warrants a hefty raise and the added title of running game coordinator. He's a good recruiter and exceptional position coach whose value is increased by the fact he knows UT's system and already has earned Fulmer's respect. Tennessee must keep him from joining the mass exodus on offense.
Randy Sanders is no stranger to UT, having already served stints with the Vols as receivers coach (1991-92), running backs coach (1993-98) and quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator (1999-2005). Maybe he wasn't ready to be offensive coordinator when that job was thrust upon him but he has a great track record coaching quarterbacks, including Kentucky's Andre Woodson in 2007. Whether he would return to UT depends on his relationship with Fulmer, and only the two of them know where that stands.
Quarles is the head coach at Maryville High School, roughly 20 miles from the UT campus. All he has done is win 99 of his last 100 games and seven of the last eight Class 4A state titles. I think that's worthy of a shot in the college ranks.