CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski built up the offensive and special teams coaching staffs in his first three weeks on the job, and now, he is bolstering the defensive side of the football.
On Friday, the Browns announced that former San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Joe Woods has been hired as the team’s new defensive coordinator, and he is very much looking forward to getting to work in Cleveland.
“I was definitely excited to have an opportunity to be a coach here,” Woods said in a release announcing his hire. “Just from tradition, pride and the fanbase, I know they’re craving for a winner, and I know we’re very close. I feel like if we can get it done, the whole city will erupt. I look forward to that challenge.”
Woods brings with him to Cleveland 16 years of NFL coaching experience, as well as 12 years in the college game.
Prior to joining San Francisco’s coaching staff for the 2019 season, Woods spent four years with the Denver Broncos, including two as defensive backs coach (2015-2016) and the final two as defensive coordinator (2017-2018).
Also, Woods worked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (secondary coach, 2004-2005), Minnesota Vikings (defensive backs, 2006-2013) and Oakland Raiders (defensive backs, 2014). It was in Minnesota that Woods worked alongside Stefanski and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
“Absolutely worth the wait,” Stefanski said of Woods’ hire. “When you’re taking a coach from another team, it’s good to see that team having success. It was fun to watch those guys. They had an incredible season. Joe’s impact on that defense was very real.
“To be able to have somebody in there that I trust, that I know is a good coach is huge. Just sitting with him this past day and talking football, it just aligns with the vision with the type of defense we want to play. I think we’ve got a really good defensive coordinator.”
In his two years with the Buccaneers, Woods helped Tampa Bay have top 10 defenses against the pass and cornerback Ronde Barber twice earn First-Team All-Pro recognition.
During his time with the Vikings, Woods helped cornerback Antoine Winfield earn the only three Pro Bowl selections of his career (2008-2010).
After working with a sure-fire future Pro Football Hall of Fame member in Charles Woodson with the Raiders, Woods moved onto the Broncos, where each of Denver’s starting defensive backs (cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, safeties T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart) earned Pro Bowl selections.
Woods’ defensive backfield in 2015-2016 led the NFL with seven defensive touchdowns on six interception returns for scores and one more on a fumble return.
During the 2019 season, the Browns surrendered 144.7 rushing yards per game, which ranked as the third-worst in the NFL, and were 20th in points (24.6) and 22nd in total yards (361.6) allowed. Against the pass, the Browns ranked seventh in the league, allowing 216.9 yards per game.
Now, they are relying Woods’ defensive expertise to improve those problem areas.
“When you have pieces in place and with the additions we’ll make in free agency and the draft, I feel like we can really get something accomplished here this next season,” Woods said.