NFL Draft Diamonds

NFL Draft, NFL Trade Rumors, Scouting Reports & More

Cleveland Browns’ Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods Leaves Team

The Browns formally announced Joe Woods’ termination as their defensive coordinator.

The Browns formally announced Joe Woods’ termination as their defensive coordinator, ending months of rumors concerning his employment.

Hours after the team’s season-ending 28-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Kevin Stefanski stated in a press conference on Monday with general manager Andrew Berry that he decided to fire Woods. Woods, 52, is the only assistant coach for the Browns to have been fired.

If any more assistant coaches were fired, neither Berry nor Stefanski would be able to say for sure. When explicitly asked about the situation of the other defensive assistants and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, Stefanski responded that he would speak with all of his coaches this week. Stefanski stated that employees would only be considered for the defensive coordinator position. Experts at consider this a move made to avoid the opportunity for an in-house shift at HC by keeping his side of the ball consistent coming into next season.

League sources have confirmed the three individuals the Browns are interested in hiring are Sean Desai, the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks; Jarod Mayo, the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots; Jim Schwartz, and Brian Flores, the senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since 2019, Mayo has served as a coach for the Patriots under Bill Belichick.

Flores worked for New England in the same capacity that Mayo did from 2016 to 2018 before accepting the Miami Dolphins coaching position in 2019 and spent the previous season working under Mike Tomlin. After the 2021 season, Flores was let go by the Dolphins, which prompted him to file a lawsuit against the organization and the NFL, citing racial discrimination in the NFL’s treatment of minority coaches and executives.

Of the four, Desai is the only one with no connections to Belichick. He spent 2013–21 with the Chicago Bears in various capacities, including as their defensive coordinator in 2021. This is his first season with the Seahawks.

Woods’ firing had been anticipated for some time, especially since the Browns’ loss to the New Orleans Saints on Christmas Eve effectively removed them from playoff contention. The Browns’ final record was 7-10, marking their second straight losing campaign since their playoff appearance in 2020.

Stefanski declined to identify the decisive event that brought about the transformation.

The Browns’ defense’s failure to maintain consistency for an entire season, if there was one factor that might be crucial to the choice. It struggled to get off to a good start for the second straight season, but during the past month and a half, it has been able to turn things around.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving’s overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12 marked the start of the Browns’ defensive comeback. They started allowing 305 yards per game instead of the 349.9 they had been allowing through the first ten games.

The Browns finished 20th overall in points allowed per game with 22.4. The 28 points scored by Pittsburgh were the highest they had given up in a game since the Buffalo Bills defeated them 31-23 in Week 11, yet, they only allowed 16 points a play over the final seven games.

Over the final seven games, the pass defense, which had surrendered an average of 214.8 yards per game in the first ten games, has only allowed 172.4 yards. Granted, the top two quarterbacks they faced during that time—Tom Brady of Tampa Bay and Joe Burrow of Cincinnati—did throw for an average of 241.5 yards each.

With 331.5 yards per game allowed, thanks to this improvement, the Browns’ defense has moved up to 14th in the league. With 196.2 yards per game, their pass defense, 16th after the Buffalo game, finished fifth.

Over the past six games, the Browns’ takeaways have significantly increased. They had only produced eight in the first twelve games but twelve in the last six.

During a Dec. 29 appearance, Woods criticized himself for the run defense, which ultimately sealed his demise. They began the season ranked seventh in the league after three games, giving up just 83.7 rushing yards, but they finished the season ranked 25th after surrendering 135.2.

The slide began with consecutive 200-plus yard rushing performances given to the Los Angeles Chargers (202 yards) and Atlanta Falcons (202 yards) (238 yards). Throughout the final 13 games, they gave up at least 150 yards in two of the eight games and at least 130 yards in two of the ten other games.

The second-half comeback is similar to what the Browns did a year ago, particularly regarding points surrendered. They lost to New England in Week 10 of 2021 after giving up 45 points, dropping from a 24.1-point average per game to a 21.8-point average for the whole season.

Despite the team’s 8-9 record, the Browns’ defense was ranked among the top 10 in several categories in 2021. They were 12th in running yards per game and 13th in points allowed per game, but they were fifth in yards per game (311.5) and passing yards per game (202.3). (109.2).

When Stefanski was appointed Browns coach in 2020, he included Woods, a player he had previously coached with the Minnesota Vikings, on his initial coaching staff. The Browns had an 11-5 regular season record that year, which led to just the second playoff berth for the team since its rebirth in 1999 and its first playoff victory since Jan. 1, 1995, when it defeated the Steelers in the AFC Wild Card round.

The Browns concluded that season with a record of 17th in total yards allowed (358.4), 22nd in passing yards allowed (247.6), but ninth in total yards allowed versus the run (110.8). They were 21st in points surrendered (26.2), but they did force 21 turnovers in the regular season and another six — including five in a victory against Pittsburgh in the Wild Card round — in two postseason contests.

For the San Francisco 49ers, Woods served as the defensive backs coach and coordinator of the defensive passing game in 2019. Before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, they won the NFC championship that year.

Woods’ only other employment as an NFL defensive coordinator was with the Denver Broncos from the previous two seasons, 2017–18. His earlier NFL experience included working with the Buccaneers as a defensive quality control coach from 2004 to 2005, the Vikings from 2006 to 2013, the then-Oakland Raiders (2014), and the Broncos from 2006 to 2013. (2015-16).


Leave a Reply