CLEVELAND — Former San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Joe Woods came to Cleveland to become the Browns’ new defensive coordinator and he did not come alone, either.
The Browns announced Thursday afternoon that first-year coach Kevin Stefanski has hired Chris Kiffin to be their new defensive line coach.
“At all levels, you’ve got to be a teacher,” Kiffin said in a release announcing his hire. “You’ve got to be able to relate to players. They’ve got to know that you’re genuine and honest and that you have their best interest at heart. All players at all levels can see through that if you’re not.
“To me, it’s about being a great teacher, getting to know these guys on a personal level because we do go through a lot. It’s not just the three hours on Sundays. That’s just a culmination of an entire offseason with lots of work, practice, blood, sweat and tears. It’s everybody coming together and pulling in the same direction.”
Last year, Kiffin was San Francisco’s pass rush specialist and the results were positive, as end Nick Bosa earned a Pro Bowl selection, while fellow linemen Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner were named alternates.
In the 2019 regular season, the 49ers averaged three sacks per game, finishing the year with a total of 48 stops.
Armstead led the way with 10.0 sacks, while Bosa was right behind him with 9.0. Buckner added 7.5 sacks and despite missing time due to injury, Dee Ford registered 6.5. Along with the 49ers’ starting defenders, the rotational players got in on the act, too, as defensive ends Solomon Thomas and Ronald Blair combined for five sacks.
The defensive line combined for 39 of San Francisco’s 48 sacks during the regular season.
During their run to the NFC Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl LIV on February 2, the 49ers registered 13 sacks, with Bosa, a rookie out of Ohio State University, leading the way with 4.0. In addition to the pressures, they forced seven fumbles in the postseason.
“That didn’t happen overnight,” Kiffin said. “Guys had been percolating, working hard and developing. It was just beautiful to watch it all come together for the perfect storm. I tell people all the time, because of the back-end guys, we were the deepest D-line in the league because we had role players that could be starters with other teams.
“To me, it was top to bottom a culture created and they all loved coming to work together every day and great things happen from units like that.”
The son of longtime NFL coach Monte Kiffin and brother of college coach Lane Kiffin, Chris Kiffin has three years of experience within the professional ranks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2006) and 49ers (2018-2019), as well as 11 seasons at the collegiate level.
Kiffin was an assistant at Idaho (2005-2006), graduate assistant at Ole Miss (2007), offensive quality control coach at Nebraska (2008-2009), defensive assistant at USC (2010) and defensive line coach at Arkansas State (2011). Then, Kiffin was the defensive line/defensive recruiting coordinator at Ole Miss (2012-2016), and later, Florida Atlantic’s co-defensive coordinator (2017).
“It was all football, all the time,” Kiffin said of his childhood. “Everybody always asks about Thanksgiving dinner where we were talking about football. We were all in different places, whether I was still playing, Lane was coaching, dad was coaching.
“It was always good together in the offseason to be able to talk ball, especially with Lane being on offense and dad and I on defense. It was always good conversations, always helped us learn.”