Cleveland Browns

Browns name former 49ers assistant Joe Woods as defensive coordinator

Browns name former 49ers assistant Joe Woods as defensive coordinator

Joe Woods on Friday officially left the 49ers coaching staff to accept the position of defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns announced the hiring of Woods, who served on Kyle Shanahan’s staff last season as defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator.

The 49ers pass defense ranked first in the NFL, holding opponents to 169.2 yards per game. It was the lowest total allowed by an NFL team since 2009, when the New York Jets allowed just 153.7 yards passing per game.

Woods signed a one-year contract with the 49ers last year to replace Jeff Hafley, who became co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Woods was free to join the Browns after the Super Bowl. Woods described his reasoning to not sign the typical two-year contract as a decision to bet on himself.

"Absolutely worth the wait," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said in a statement. "It's good to see when you're taking a coach from another team it's good to see that team having success. It was fun to watch those guys. They had an incredible season. Joe's impact on that defense was very real.

"I'm going to spend a lot of time with the offense but it doesn't mean I won't spend time with the defense. To be able to have somebody in there that I trust, that I know is a good coach is huge. Just sitting with him this past day and talking football, it just aligns with the vision with the type of defense we want to play. I think we've got a really good defensive coordinator."

Woods came to the 49ers after four seasons with the Denver Broncos. He was the defensive backs coach on the Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. He was promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2017 and ’18 seasons under then-coach Vance Joseph.

Now, he joins a Cleveland staff under Stefanski, who was hired this offseason over 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

[RELATEDReport: 49ers' Kiffin joining Browns; Whitecotton replaces him]

"You could definitely see they had some pieces in place, some talented players that I've evaluated over the years," Woods said in a statement. "I was definitely excited to have an opportunity to be a coach here.

"Just from tradition, pride and the fanbase, I know they're craving for a winner and I know we're very close. I feel like if we can get it done, the whole city will erupt. I look forward to that challenge."

NFL rumors: 49ers' Chris Kiffin joining Browns; Aaron Whitecotton replaces him

NFL rumors: 49ers' Chris Kiffin joining Browns; Aaron Whitecotton replaces him

Assistant coach Chris Kiffin, who served the past two seasons as the 49ers’ pass-rush specialist, reportedly is leaving the organization to become the Cleveland Browns’ defensive line coach.

The 49ers will replace Kiffin’s spot on the coaching staff with Aaron Whitecotton, who was the Buffalo Bills’ assistant defensive line coach, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio reported on Friday morning. Whitecotton will assist 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek,

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Whitecotton spent four seasons (2013 to ’16) with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he worked on the same staff as 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.

Jimmy Garoppolo bruised Kyle Shanahan's hands during pre-draft workout

Jimmy Garoppolo bruised Kyle Shanahan's hands during pre-draft workout

MIAMI, Fla. -- Before Jimmy Garoppolo became one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL and led the 49ers to Super LIV in Miami, he was just a quarterback from Eastern Illinois University hoping for a chance.

As the NFL draft approached in 2014, Kyle Shanahan was just an offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, who desperately needed a quarterback.

Their paths crossed then, as Shanahan drove up to Northwestern University to work out the young signal-caller. But Shanahan didn't spend his time in Evanston, Ill., as a spectator to the Jimmy G show. Instead, he became a key participant. 

Due to a lack of wide receivers, Shanahan, a former receiver at Duke and Texas, had to catch balls from Garoppolo and got a first-hand account of the quarterback's arm talent.

"I remember, they didn't have a lot of receivers show up, so I had to do some of the routes," Shanahan told the media Tuesday about the 2014 workout. "Which was frustrating because he threw it too hard and I didn't have gloves and I remember the next few days my hands were purple. But I feel like I caught most of them. So, the workout was great and then going out to dinner later that night and just getting to hang out with him -- very simple, very humble. 

"When you spend a night with someone, especially through the draft process and they come off the way he does, man, what's the guy hiding? He's so relaxed and such a good dude. I've been with him for about three years and he's no different from that first night." 

As impressed as Shanahan was with Garoppolo that day, his now quarterback was equally wowed by his coach's hands. 

“Kyle was snagging passes, no gloves needed," Garoppolo said when asked about the workout. "So it was pretty impressive, bringing him back to his receiver days.”

Shanahan went back to Cleveland but, in total Browns fashion, they neglected to pick the QB that had been slinging the pill to their OC. 

Instead, they took Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick. Shanahan would leave Cleveland the following season and spend two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before being hired to turn around the 49ers.

[RELATED: How Alex Smith helped develop Mahomes during rookie season]

Garoppolo heard his name called 40 selections later when Bill Belichick drafted him to be the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Three seasons later, with Brady still torching defenses and winning Super Bowls, Belichick called up Shanahan and traded Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick, choosing to send the young quarterback to a situation Belichick believed would be beneficial for Garoppolo. 

As usual, Belichick was correct. Once Garoppolo was given the starting job near the end of the 2017 season, he and Shanahan had instant success, leading to a lucrative long-term contract and now a Super Bowl berth.

Shanahan's offensive ingenuity and Garoppolo's resiliency make them a pairing that appears built to last. 

Five years, three teams, one trade and a pair of purple hands later, that formula now has Shanahan and Garoppolo one win away from Super Bowl immortality.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 3 p.m. Saturday).

Also tune in at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday for a two-hour special of "49ers Pregame Live" with Laura Britt, Donte Whitner, Jeff Garcia, Ian Williams, Kelli Johnson, Greg Papa and Grant Liffmann. That same crew will have all the postgame reaction on "49ers Postgame Live," starting immediately after the game.