The Cleveland Browns have fired defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who served in the role for three seasons, after finishing last in the AFC North with a disappointing 7-10 record. The Browns have already filed requests to interview Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores and Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, according to ESPN.
"I'd like to thank Joe for his hard work and dedication in his three seasons as our defensive coordinator," head coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement from the team. "I will always have the utmost respect for Joe, the person, and the coach. Unfortunately, we didn't perform up to our standards enough this season, and we all in share that responsibility. We all wish Joe and his family the best in the future," Stefanski said in a prepared statement.
Woods, 52, went to the Browns after working as defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator in San Francisco. Woods also spent time in the Buccaneers, Vikings, Raiders and Broncos organizations, including two as a defensive coordinator, over the course of his 19-year NFL coaching career.
Flores, 41, was a scout in New England from 2004-2007 before joining the staff as a special teams assistant in 2007. He rose to prominence over the next decade serving in a variety of roles for the Patriots before becoming head coach of the Dolphins in 2019. After three seasons in Miami, accumulating a 24-25 record, Flores was fired. On Feb. 1, 2022, he filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and multiple organizations alleging racial discrimination. Flores was in his first season as senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach with the Steelers.
Mayo, 36, just completed his third season as inside linebackers coach in New England. After an eight year playing career with the Patriots -- during which he accumulated 803 tackles, 11 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries and three interceptions -- he joined Bill Belichick's staff. The Virginia native was drafted No. 10 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Cleveland allowed 22.0 points per game this season, which ranked towards the middle of the league. They allowed the eighth-most rushing yards per game (135.2) and the fifth-fewest passing yards per game (196.2). According to Football Outsiders, the Browns had the eighth-best defensive DVOA after finishing the season relatively strong. However, the franchise's failure to reach the postseason can be traced back to the team's early season struggles against the Jets, Falcons and Patriots.
Woods was also at the heart of controversy this week when star edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney publicly lashed out, claiming that the defensive scheme was constructed to favor Myles Garrett.
"You are all trying to get [Garrett] into the Hall of Fame instead of winning games," Clowney said. "I do not even think [Garrett] notices. I ain't trying to say it is him. I try to get along with everybody I play with. Me and him do not have a problem. It ain't his fault, and it's B.S., and I don't have time for it."
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin shared that Clowney, who is one of the league's best early down run defenders, refused to play on any down other than third against the Ravens in October, per the Associated Press. Clowney was sent home from practice this week and was inactive for the season finale loss to Pittsburgh.
Other players had voiced their displeasure with Woods over the course of the season. The Browns determined it was in their best interest to initiate a fresh start but little will change unless they find more consistent play from the interior defensive line.