Doing his multimedia broadcasting thing, Chad Brown closed in on Seahawks tight end Luke Willson for an interview after a big game against the Arizona Cardinals late in the 2014 season.
Willson, though, was practically vibrating with joy from the lopsided win, and was so eager to sprint into the locker room to share the moment with his teammates that Brown nearly had to tackle him for a brief chat.
And when Willson ran off, Brown was overcome with adrenaline envy.
“I thought: I know what he’s feeling, and I miss it — I miss it every day,” Brown said. “I was broadcasting, so I was close to the game, but I didn’t live or die with it. I realized that minute how much I miss it.”
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It has been eight seasons since Brown’s stellar 15-year NFL career ended. In the interim, he operated his own exotic pet business, and had been active in radio and television broadcasting.
But at 45, Brown has had enough of just being close to the game. He wants back in.
With three Pro Bowls on his résumé, including two during his eight-year stay in Seattle, Brown now can be found on the fields at Virginia Mason Athletic Center as a coaching intern with the Seahawks.
Brown was one of the all-time high-effort Seahawks, playing linebacker like a starving barracuda.
I once devoted an entire column to one illustrative and iconic Chad Brown play. He blitzed past his blocker and hurried the passer deep in the backfield. The quarterback completed the pass, though, and the receiver advanced well down the field before getting hit and fumbling the ball.
When the ball popped loose, the hustling Brown was there to recover the fumble — about 40 yards from where he’d almost made the sack. Making that kind of effort far more extraordinary was this fact: It was an exhibition game.
That’s the kind of guy you want on your team: As linebacker, or as a coach.
He finished his career (Pittsburgh, Seattle, New England) with almost 1,100 tackles and 79 sacks. And nothing since has felt as satisfying.
“I saw Rod Woodson, a former teammate (in Pittsburgh), last year at Broncos training camp when I was doing my media stuff; he asked if I was interested in coaching,” Brown said. “Well, it’s been eight years since I’ve played. He said then I might need to try an internship. So, I started having some talks with the Broncos since I live there in Denver.”
When working a Seahawks game, Brown mentioned the Broncos connection with Maurice (Mo) Kelly, Seattle’s vice president/player engagement. Kelly objected to his choice of teams and pitched the idea of his coming back to the Seahawks.
Few can match Brown’s exposure to top-level coaching — he played for Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh, Dennis Erickson and Mike Holmgren in Seattle, and Bill Belichick in New England. And that was after winning a national championship in 1990 at the University of Colorado under Bill McCartney.
And now he’s getting a chance to see how Seahawks coach Pete Carroll does it.
“Pete obviously teaches high accountability, so does Bill Belichick, but they go at it in completely, completely different ways,” Brown said. “The accountability, the professionalism, those things remain the same, but the environment they create that allows those players to do that couldn’t be more different.”
In the end, Brown said, it’s all about motivating the players, reaching them in a way that helps extract their best performance. His insightful description of this connection is something he should save for pulling out at any interview he gets for a permanent coaching job.
“It’s such a physical, primal game, at some point you have to be able to speak to the players in the way they can understand it and buy in to it,” Brown said. “Yes, you can be positive, you can be enthusiastic, and you can be encouraging. But at some point, these guys have to hit people with their face, and it takes a certain communication style to get men to do that repeatedly.”
Brown will be with the Hawks only through the middle of the exhibition season, when broadcasting obligations will take him away. For now.
“When people ask me what I want to do … I’m open,” he said. “In broadcasting, they’ve asked me if I want to be in the booth or the studio, and I give the same response I always did as a linebacker: Just tell me what you want me to do, coach, I can do it all.”
Brown quickly concedes he enjoys rare options as “life has afforded me the opportunity to do what I want next.”
His appearance as a coaching intern with the Seahawks makes it clear which direction he wants it to go.
“While broadcasting has been fun,” he said. “There’s nothing like living and dying with a team every Sunday.”