BEREA — Joe Woods is out as the Browns’ defensive coordinator, the Beacon Journal has confirmed, ending months of speculation surrounding his job status.
Woods was let go by the team on Monday, one day after the team’s season-ending loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There’s no word on the official status of the rest of the defensive assistants, some of whom could potentially be retained by the next coordinator.
General manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski are expected to address the media this afternoon at 3:30. The players will also be available this morning as they go through exit interviews and clean out their lockers after the season.
The dismissal has been expected for some time, especially when the Browns were officially eliminated from playoff contention after their Christmas Eve loss to the New Orleans Saints. The Browns ended the season 7-10, the second consecutive losing season since their 2020 playoff season.
“I mean, I know regardless of what happens, they’re good people,” safety John Johnson III said after the 28-14 loss to the Steelers. “They’re good coaches, and everything is meant to be what happens. So I guess we’ll see.”
The downfall for Woods was the inability of the Browns’ defense to sustain consistency over a full season. For the second consecutive season, they were unable to start the year off well, but managed to turn it around over the last month-and-a-half.
The Browns’ defensive turnaround started with the Week 12 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Sunday after Thanksgiving. They’ve allowed 305 yards a game, compared to the 349.9 they had allowed over the first 10 games.
For the season, the Browns finished 20th in points per game allowed at 22.4. However, they gave up just 16 a game over the final seven games, although the 28 points Pittsburgh scored were the most they allowed in a game since a 31-23 Week 11 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The pass defense, which was allowing 214.8 yards a game over the first 10, allowed an average of just 172.4 yards over the last seven. Granted, the best two quarterbacks they faced in that span — Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow — did throw for an average of 241.5 yards.
“I think we worked through a lot of the issues that we had early on in the season,” Woods said the Thursday’s before the finale. “We just try to give them a solid game plan that they can go out and play fast and execute. I think throughout the early parts of the season we made those adjustments, and I think the guys really probably since Week 11 that we have played a lot better.”
That improvement has allowed the Browns defense to rise up to 14th in the league in total yards allowed at 331.5 yards per game. Their pass defense, which was 16th coming out of the Buffalo game, finished fifth at 196.2 yards a game.
The part of the defense which ultimately sealed Woods’ fate was the run defense. After being ranked seventh in the league through three games, allowing just 83.7 rushing yards in that span, they ended the season ranked 25th by giving up 135.2.
The decline started with back-to-back 200-plus-yard rushing performance allowed to the Atlanta Falcons (202 yards) and Los Angeles Chargers (238 yards). Those were two of eight games over the final 13 games in which they allowed at least 150 yards, and two of 10 of at least 130 yards.
“Absolutely, I put it all on coaching,” Woods said of the run defense on Dec. 29. “Coaching first. We gotta get the guys to go out, execute whatever I’m calling.”
This is a developing story. Check back for more as the day goes along.