The Cleveland Browns passed on San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for their head coaching position over the weekend. The Niners aren’t out of the woods yet, however. Per Jim Trotter of NFL Network, new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has narrowed his choices for defensive coordinator to Steve Wilks, the Browns’ defensive coordinator in 2018, and Joe Woods, the 49ers’ defensive backs/passing game coordinator. Trotter said that a decision is expected to come sooner than later.
I’m not going to pretend to be Adam Schefter, but everything I’ve gathered this season is that Woods is doing a lot of the heavy lifting from a scheme standpoint. San Francisco still ran zone predominantly during the regular season (78% zone). Still, Woods brought over more quarters cover principles, pattern-matching schemes, and checks pre-snap that keep the 49ers defense in a numbers advantage. Simply put, he’d be a significant loss for the 49ers. Rumors are already swirling that run game coordinator Mike McDaniel could join Stefanski as his offensive coordinator. We’ll see if either of these happen.
If the 49ers are truly building something special that will be around for a long time, they can expect to lose coaches every season. It’s a copycat league, and when you have success, other teams are going to want to know how to emulate that. There’s no better way to do that than hire an assistant that has sat in on meetings, gone through all the preparation and game planning, and heard the thought process of the coaches during game day. Saleh, Woods, and McDaniel will be the first of many coaches to get better opportunities if San Francisco can sustain their success from this season. It’s on Kyle Shanahan to keep finding and developing talent—an area Shanahan excels at.