Earlier this week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator Joe Woods was "on track" to accept the Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator position.
But even as their appearance in Super Bowl LIV approaches, it doesn't appear the 49ers will be willing to give up Woods without a fight.
According to Ben Goessling of The Minnesota Star Tribune, San Francisco is expected to make a "late push" to keep Woods from accepting the open Browns job. Woods worked alongside new Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski from 2006-2013 on the Minnesota Vikings before leaving for a one-season stint with the Oakland Raiders and a four-year run with the Denver Broncos.
This past season, Woods worked under 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who the Browns interviewed for their head coaching position earlier this month. In 2019, San Francisco laid claim to the top passing defense in the NFL, surrendering just 173.8 yards per game and 5.3 yards per pass attempt.
While preventing Woods from taking Cleveland's defensive coordinator position would seem like a tough sell for the 49ers, Saleh's rise as a head coaching candidate could make Woods the front-runner to take over as San Francisco's defensive coordinator as soon as next year. The 49-year-old Woods served as the Broncos' defensive coordinator during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Asked about Woods at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards on Wednesday, Stefanski acknowledged the former Kent State assistant coach's candidacy for the position.
“Another one of those great coaches I’ve been around among many guys,’’ Stefanski said of Woods. “But he’s in the Super Bowl, which is the ultimate that we’re all trying to get to. So I’ll wait to talk about any of those scenarios until after the Super Bowl.’’