A Tale of Two ETSU Coaches; Steve Brown and George Quarles

Marky Billson
5 min readApr 30, 2023

Brown has a Super Bowl ring, was the secondary coach during the Salad Days of Bucs football, and is doing some nice things in the USFL. Why didn’t we hear more about him when he was in Johnson City?

Marky Billson

If one wishes to examine the demise of East Tennessee State football, one could argue they need to look no further than Michigan Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Brown.

Brown was the secondary coach of the Buccaneers under former head coach Randy Sanders, bringing NFL coaching experience to the FCS.

Brown was an assistant for the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans

So why would ETSU want to replace Brown, Dick Vermeil’s secondary coach when the St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl in 1999, with Chris Grimes, who prior to returning to ETSU to coach the defensive backs had primarily been the running backs coach at Tennessee Tech?

Brown and Sanders had a history together, previously serving as defensive and offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky. It could very well be Brown was willing to take a small college positional role with someone he worked with previously, but not with someone he hadn’t.

And it’s not as if Brown regrets his career path. Going directly from FCS secondary coach to USFL defensive coordinator is major career advancement.

Brown’s gain is ETSU’s loss, not only falling from 11–2 in 2021 to 3–8 in 2022, but despite returning two starters in the secondary and the fact opponents who are losing will naturally throw more than opponents who are winning, the Bucs allowed 275 passing yards per game last year compared to 229 yards a game in 2021.

Meanwhile, in two weeks the Panthers have won as many United States Football League games as they did all last season, and with their home games being played in Detroit and, dare it be said, the signing of former ETSU gamechanger Tyree Robinson, both Michigan and Brown’s immediate future looks bright.

George Quarles’ future doesn’t. The ETSU head football coach’s career is on the line this season, as another losing season would seemingly result in his dismissal, and with players continuing…

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