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Browns DC Rumors: Pats' Jerod Mayo, Steelers' Brian Flores Eyed After Joe Woods Fired

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 9, 2023

BEREA, OH - MAY 13: Defensive coordinator Joe Woods of the Cleveland Browns looks on during the first day of Cleveland Browns rookie mini camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on May 13, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns fired defensive coordinator Joe Woods on Monday morning after three seasons on the job.

Cleveland Browns @Browns

Joe Woods has been relieved of his duties as defensive coordinator. <a href="https://t.co/m7nMjLGaTT">pic.twitter.com/m7nMjLGaTT</a>

ESPN's Jake Trotter first reported before the Browns' announcement.

In a follow-up report, ESPN's Adam Schefter noted that sources said the Browns have requested permission to interview New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jarod Mayo for their now-vacant defensive coordinator position.

Mayo has served in that role with the Pats since 2019, and he previously played linebacker for the Patriots from 2008 to 2015, earning two Pro Bowl selections, one Super Bowl win and the 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.

Schefter also reported that the Browns have requested to interview Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores, who was the Miami Dolphins' head coach from 2019 through 2021.

When the Browns hired Kevin Stefanski as head coach in 2020, Stefanski hired Woods as his DC after Woods had previously been the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2018, and the San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator in 2019.

Woods' reported firing came on the heels of a 28-14 season-ending loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. With the loss, Cleveland finished 7-10 on the year.

In Woods' first season as the Browns' defensive coordinator, Cleveland reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002, although the defense's performance left something to be desired, ranking 17th in total defense and 21st in scoring defense.

Woods' unit took a big step forward in 2021, however, improving to fifth in total defense and 13th in scoring defense.

While there were question marks surrounding the offense entering the 2022 campaign due to quarterback Deshaun Watson having to serve a suspension for much of the season in relation to sexual misconduct allegations, there were high hopes for the defense.

Instead, Woods' side of the ball fell back closer to 2020 levels, ranking 14th in total yards allowed and 20th in points allowed.

While Cleveland was a solid fifth in the NFL against the pass this season, its porous run defense was an issue throughout the year, as the Browns ranked 25th in the league against the run, allowing 135.2 yards per game.

Per Trotter, the analytics highlighted Cleveland's issues against the run as well, as they finished 31st in the NFL with a -23.11 defensive total rush EPA.

There was also some drama surrounding the Browns' defense entering the season finale, as defensive end and former No. 1 NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney was sent home and did not play against the Steelers.

Per Trotter, the decision to send Clowney home came on Friday after Clowney said in an interview with Cleveland.com on Thursday that he was "95 percent sure" he would not re-sign with the Browns.

Clowney explained his rationale, expressing his belief that the Browns were too focused on defensive end Myles Garrett's stats and not enough on winning:

"You're all trying to get [Garrett] into the Hall of Fame instead of winning games. I don't even think [Garrett] notices. I ain't trying to say it's him. I try to get along with everybody I play with. Me and him don't have a problem. It ain't his fault, and it's B.S., and I don't have time for it."

While Cleveland's defense this season was poor as a whole, Garrett was named a Pro Bowler for the third consecutive season and fourth time overall, as he matched his career high with 16 sacks.

The DC who replaces Woods will inherit an elite talent in Garrett, but there isn't much certainty on the unit in terms of personnel beyond that.