This wasn’t the way anyone wanted to see the season end.
But on Sunday, the Cleveland Browns dropped a close game to the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, 22-17.
This was an AMAZING season, and there isn’t a Browns fan alive that says otherwise.
The Browns went 11-5 and made it to the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
We saw tremendous growth in Baker Mayfield.
The Browns have changed the culture of the team.
Kevin Stefanski should rack up the Coach of the Year award this year.
These are all great things that fans and viewers had the opportunity to witness this season.
But there is two glaring omissions from this list of accomplishments.
The defense, and the defensive coordinator Joe Woods.
There Was Some Good On The Defensive Side
The defense played great during the playoffs against teams that experts and pundits said they had no chance against.
Woods schemed well against the Steelers, providing pressure that made Ben Roethlisberger extremely uncomfortable while forcing four interceptions and five turnovers overall.
In the second half of that game, Woods did what he seemingly did every game.
The pressure and blitzing slowed to almost nothing and the linebackers and defensive backs played soft zones and coverages which allowed the Browns to be exposed in the middle of the field.
Even after that unfortunate (and dare I say, trash) touchback in the Chiefs game, the Browns fought back in the second half.
And Woods did the SAME thing he had done in previous games.
Leaving the middle of the field allowed Chiefs’ backup quarterback Chad Henne to scramble for a critical first down.
Here’s the 3rd and 14. Still have no idea WHY we don’t bring pressure on Henne. And Stewart needs to come up as soon as Henne crosses the LOS. Whole play just a disaster. pic.twitter.com/CtlS4oahae
— Dustin Fox (@DustinFox37) January 18, 2021
I want it to be clear, I am not blaming Joe Woods completely for this.
While Andrew Berry and company have done a great job in restocking the cupboard, the defensive backfield didn’t get to see the new acquisitions this season.
Rookies Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams both sustained injuries that kept them off the field.
The linebacking unit wasn’t much better.
Sione Takitaki showed glimpses, but isn’t an every down linebacker.
Mack Wilson, who looked great last season, didn’t look the same after a season that saw him starting out on the injured list.
The brightest spots on the defensive side of the ball are Denzel Ward and Myles Garrett, two amazing players that Berry and Stefanski can build around.
Should Joe Woods Stay?
Ultimately, this is what many fans want to know.
Absolutely, but there needs to be some changes.
Watching the Browns going into the second half of the season and into the playoffs, Woods failed to make adjustments at the half.
Adjustments are the indicators of a good coaching staff.
Woods needs to do better next season.
The Browns defense finished 17th in total defense this season, which isn’t bad considering the talent on the back half.
While there is some anger over what happened on Sunday, we have to remember Woods oversaw a top three defense in Denver when he was DC there in 2017-2018.
There is absolutely zero reason to pull the trigger on his firing after a single season.
Stefanski understands how important continuity is, especially with the Browns’ recent history.
There is a reason Stefanski chose him to run the defense.
Let’s see what he can do next year when he gets some healthy players and some new additions.
And while Joe Woods can shoulder some of the blame this season, he’ll have to shoulder more of the blame if the results don’t change.
But let’s give him another year and enjoy an amazing season.
Next season can’t begin soon enough.