Brandon Browner has become something of a lightning rod for Saints fans, a target of vitriol in a disappointing season for the defense and the team as a whole.
But Browner’s coaches and teammates haven’t wavered in their support for the veteran cornerback.
Browner, who was voted a defensive captain at the beginning of the season, has played 96.8 percent of the snaps for the defense this season, the third-most of any Saints defender behind strong safety Kenny Vaccaro and linebacker Stephone Anthony.
“It’s easy to point fingers at somebody when our record is what it is,” Vaccaro said.
Browner, brought in as a free agent to shore up the cornerback spot, has been forced to play in some situations that aren’t ideally suited to his strengths as a cornerback who makes life difficult for receivers at the line of scrimmage and plays in a short area of the field, the way he often did in New England last year.
But he has also struggled at times. Browner, who has always been near the top of the NFL in penalties, already has 21 on the season, a career-high and one off the mark for the highest number of penalties by any individual player since 1999, when the league started compiling those statistics.
Browner has also had issues in coverage against the league’s faster receivers when he’s been left alone without help. Browner ranks third on the team with 53 tackles, and he’s second to Delvin Breaux with 10 passes defensed and one interception.
“I don’t think he’s much different than where we’ve been as a defense,” Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “I think there’s games where he played exceptionally well, and then there’s obviously been games where he hasn’t played quite as well.”
Browner’s teammates, who voted him a defensive captain at the beginning of the season, continue to back the veteran cornerback.
“I went through the same thing last year, led the league in personal fouls, and my teammates played for me,” Vaccaro said.
Browner, who has also been involved in a few wars of words with media members that have drawn attention, also drew attention on Sunday for what appeared to be a heated face-to-face argument with Allen after the Saints allowed Ted Ginn to slip behind Browner and free safety Jairus Byrd for a touchdown.
Allen shrugged off the confrontation on Friday.
“I think when you look at it, it’s two guys that are passionate about the game that are trying to win, and that’s what happens in this league,” Allen said. “It’s not the first time that there’s ever been two passionate guys get after each other a little bit on the sideline, but at the end of the day, we’re a family here, and just like anybody else that has a family — brothers, sisters, moms, dads — there’s times where you get aggravated at each other, you say some things you wish you hadn’t said, but at the end of the day, you move on. That’s where we are.”
Browner declined an interview with local reporters on Friday. The Saints believe in the veteran’s approach to the game.
“What I can tell you about Brandon is, I can tell you he comes in here every day with a passion and an energy to get better as an individual,” Allen said. “He has a passion and an energy to try to help this football team get better, and that’s what you look for in players.”