The Syracuse Orange football program has their new head coach. Fran Brown, the current defensive backs coach for the Georgia Bulldogs surprised most when he emerged as the choice to lead the Orange in 2024.
Here at TNIAAM, we decided to get some initial thoughts on the choice:
Kevin: It’s the recruiting history. Brown is the #1 recruiter in the nation according to 24/7 and when you look at his all-time recruits, he’s been landing players at his previous schools in prime areas for Syracuse. No one should expect a top-10 class, but he might have the best chance of landing the 4-star Northeast players so many feel are crucial to a winning program.
Mike: It’s not the recruiting itself that stands out most to be, but rather the retention and development of those players. Brown has developed serious NFL talent - guys who get drafted and stick around in the league past their rookie contract - at programs which don’t exactly have the most illustrious history of doing so. He’s also taken some of the absolute best talent with him when changing positions between Temple/Baylor/Rutgers, showing the relationships he built with those individuals meant that much.
Andy: Dino Babers tried to extend Syracuse’s recruiting footprint into Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan with incredibly limited results; Syracuse’s best players still came primarily from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Brown has the potential to lock down New York, New Jersey, and Eastern PA recruiting in a way we haven’t seen in the modern era at ‘Cuse and would be huge in terms of building a foundation that will support the program as the B1G expands its footprint.
Steve: The standout of course is the recruiting, there’s nothing to be said otherwise. Everyone above touched on that. However there’s also the additional benefit of a real strong pedigree and coaching relations. Brown worked under both Matt Ruhle and now Kirby Smart. At this point, anyone coming out of the Georgia program, coming off back to back national titles, is considered gold. I’ll take it. He should be able to pull in a staff that really helps his cause. Let’s hope he pulls those strings and the Orange have a solid staff to go with the hire.
Dom: The resume with Brown’s recruitment is the obvious known, but the underrated part is how he could internally build the program’s culture. We know the Babers’ era was plagued with the usual list of issues: unforced errors, penalties, head-scratching mistakes. From an on-field and locker room standpoint, Brown has the background to fix what has repeatedly been a problem with this team for years.
Christian: Ditto on the recruiting. Along the same lines as Dom’s point, Brown seems like a guy who will excel in coach-player relations. Being relatively young for a head coach at 40 years old, he probably can relate and connect with the players in a way that others leading the program over recent hires could not.
Max: Besides his outstanding recruiting, Brown has a history of turning programs around immediately. While at Temple as a defensive backs coach beginning in 2013, the Owls improved from 2-10 to 10-4 in just two years. Likewise, at Baylor from 2016-17, the Bears went from 1-11 to 7-6 in those two seasons. Based on his track record, Syracuse should have no problems reaching 8+ wins each year.
Kevin: We have no insight into his philosophy. Who will be his coordinators? What approach will he take on both sides of the ball? I’m very curious to see how he’ll fill out his staff and what steps he takes in the support areas.
Mike: Judging by a post from Offensive Coordinator Jason Beck’s wife, it seems like he is on the way out after this season... which is disappointing because Brown needs an experienced OC to run the playbook, at least to start things off. It may be tough for him to find a better option right away, being that his connections are mainly on the defensive side.
Andy: This is a huge jump up in terms of responsibility and job scope, and that kind of jump doesn’t always translate to a stress-free environment. We know Brown has ties to some impressive staffs, and is likely to bring over guys from Georgia and elsewhere that he’s been tight with in the past. But the early years of Dino Babers’ tenure were rife with adjustments from the MAC to the Power 5, will we see the same here without former head coaches on the staff?
Steve: Inexperience as a game manager. I’m optimistic that Brown and the Orange can hire around this with solid coordinators. The addition of a former HC or someone with past experience in the vein would go a long way in order to smooth this out. I would hope that with those connections I mentioned above that he can pull in someone to help him out on this end.
Dom: Remember all the late-season collapses under Babers, especially the past three years? Again, the jump from defensive backs coach to head coach is a major leap — can Brown both acquire enough depth to make up for mid-season injuries and properly game manage to avoid frustrating end of year results?
Christian: System fit. I know that Brown has worked with Temple and Rutgers, but the highlight of his resume is obviously the Georgia defensive backs assistant role. It might be tempting to try and replicate what the Bulldogs do well, but Syracuse doesn’t have the same athletes right now to pull that type of playstyle off. Can Brown re-learn what he did well at his prior jobs and install a simpler style that fits the current and future types of players he’ll have at his disposal next?
Max: While he’s established himself as a great defensive backs coach, we have no clue how impactful Brown will be as the man in charge. We’ll know much more once Brown selects his staff and begins his aggressive recruitment. But for now, welcome to the land of the unknown.
What do you want to see next?
Kevin: I’m hoping Brown has his Director of Operations already set to go. That’s the position that will hold everything down while he wraps up at Georgia. That person will work with the current team and will be the conduit to the transition between the coaching staffs and the administration.
Mike: Quick connections. What will the conversations be like with recruits and current players exploring other options? Can Fran pass the first test with the fanbase and local media on Monday? How will he integrate himself into his role with the existing staff as they prepare for a bowl game and a chance at another winning season? There needs to be the right amount of aggressiveness here while also respecting the situation and overall atmosphere of the room. Not an easy task - but first impressions matter, especially for a first-time head coach.
Andy: Babers’ natural inclination to keep things close to the vest with the media played well into a historically close-lipped Syracuse athletics department. Brown is coming from an entirely different kind of football culture where assistants and coordinators are put in front of microphones and social media as much as the head coach. Selfishly, I’d like to see some of that come out at Cuse which desperately needs to drum up support going forward, but Brown’s got history with building youth football in both Georgia and New Jersey; galvanizing that in Central New York would be a huge win for his staff off the field.
Steve: I don't know? That’s the real truth. There’s a lot of options and directions to head. Calls to current players, contact with committed recruits, pulling a staff together, media responsibility, there’s a ton of things for Brown to do as soon as he gets going here and even before. What the right next step is, I’m not sure, but any direction that moves the program forward is the right one.
Dom: It’s the question I think the everyday fan wants an answer to — what does the rest of the staff around Brown look like? Does he look to cover his weaknesses or build on his strengths? Who stays and goes from the previous crop of coordinators and assistant coaches? That will help Brown figure out what his philosophy is with this team, but it also gives us Syracuse fans a sense of the direction he plans to take the program in and what he will likely do to fill out the roster.
Christian: Similar to my earlier point, a statement of intent for his system of football. Knowing the ideas and schemes that he wants to run will be important to set clear targets for a coaching staff and to set expectations for recruits, returning players, and transfer portal targets about what to expect from the Orange. If he can lay his plan out clearly, Syracuse can remove some of the mystery from the program.
Max: Going off Mike’s point, I want to see how Brown acts at his opening press conference on Dec. 4. A week ago, I (and most Orange fans) had never even heard of Brown. I think that makes his first impression on the SU fanbase that much more important. We’ll get the chance to see how he acts at the podium, lays out his plan for the future, and how he handles questions from the press. Of course, I’m intrigued about the makeup of next year’s team, but I’d like to see how Brown initially handles the Syracuse faithful.
What are your thoughts about Brown’s hiring? Share them in the comments below