CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has had a busy first month on the job, and in addition to his roles in helping land general manager Andrew Berry, scouting players and breaking down film of the 2019 team, he has continued building his coaching staff.
Stefanski’s staff continued to take shape Thursday when it was reported by NFL Network reporter and NFL.com contributor Tom Pelissero that the Browns have agreed to terms with San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator Joe Woods to become the team’s new defensive coordinator.
“I think he’s an outstanding football mind,” Stefanski said of Woods during a press conference after Berry was introduced as GM at team headquarters Wednesday. “You saw that defense and what they were able to do this year. I saw firsthand, unfortunately, how good they were.”
Woods has 16 years of coaching experience at the National Football League level, 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.
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 with six interception returns for scores and one more on a fumble return.
During the 2019 season, the Browns’ defense struggled mightily to stop the run, especially after star defensive end Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely for his role in a brawl with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the waning seconds of a Browns win at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland in Week 11.
The Browns allowed 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) in 2019. Against the pass, the Browns ranked seventh in the league, allowing 216.9 yards per game.