BEREA, Ohio (AP) – The Cleveland Browns fired defensive coordinator Joe Woods on Monday after his underperforming group had a major hand in this season ending way short of expectations or the playoffs, a person familiar with the move told the Associated Press.
The 52-year-old Woods was one Kevin Stefanski’s first hires in 2020. Cleveland’s defense had issues from the opener, leading to a 7-10 record – the Browns’ 17th double-digit loss season since the franchise’s expansion rebirth in 1999.
Woods is the only coordinator expected to be fired, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced any staff changes
Woods was under fire all season and he sensed his dismissal last week, telling reporters, “I hope I get to talk to you guys again,” as he left his news conference.
With Woods in charge, Cleveland’s defense underperformed and had communication issues. The Browns were especially bad against the run, getting gashed for big plays on the ground nearly every week as teams turned to a proven formula.
Woods never ducked responsibility or made excuses despite a rash of injuries, most notably at middle linebacker.
Starters Anthony Walker Jr., Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Jacob Phillips and Sione Takitaki all sustained season-ending injuries, forcing Woods to play inexperienced linebackers and general manager Andrew Berry to bring in outside help.
The Browns’ pass defense collapsed late in a Week 2 loss to the New York Jets, who rallied from 13 points down in the final two minutes.
The problem resurfaced in Sunday’s 28-14 loss at Pittsburgh as Steelers quarterback Kenny Picket threw a touchdown pass to a wide-open George Pickens with Cleveland’s defensive backs confused on coverage.
Woods also had to deal with star defensive end Myles Garrett playing hurt much of the season with a sprained shoulder suffered in a September car crash. Woods’ final week included defensive end Jadeveon Clowney being sent home after he criticized the organization and coaching staff.
Cleveland’s defense improved some during the season’s second half, but there wasn’t enough growth to save Woods.