Joe Woods doesn't have an extensive working relationship with Dennis Allen. The only time the two were on the same coaching staff in the NFL was in 2014, when Allen was head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Woods was his defensive backs coach.
But, fast forward to 2023, there was enough familiarity and likeminded belief that Allen, entering his second season as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, had no problem pegging Woods as his new defensive coordinator.
"I've worked with (Allen), I know how he operates," Woods said. "So for me, it's just the day-to-day operation, things to do with the staff, things to do with the team. Obviously, helping him game-planning, and just helping him with some of my experiences, sharing those things. I know the scheme, I think it's a really good scheme, so I'm excited.
"(Familiarity with Allen) definitely helps, because when you work with somebody you know how they like to gameplan, you know how they like to call a game, you know how they like to operate day to day. So just being familiar with that from my time out there in Oakland with him is a big plus."
Allen, who was New Orleans' defensive coordinator for seven seasons before taking over as head coach, is expected to call the defense. It's his specialty, and under his direction the Saints became one of the league's best defenses from 2017-21. And last season, in his first as head coach with New Orleans, the Saints allowed 13.5 points per game over the last six games and finished the season with three wins in their final four games.
Overall, the Saints allowed 20.3 points per game, ninth fewest in the league, and 314.8 yards per game, fifth fewest in the league.
Woods was defensive coordinator for the Browns the previous three seasons. Cleveland ranked fifth in pass defense (196.2 yards per game) in '22, and fifth in total defense in '21. In '20, Cleveland reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and led the NFL with six red zone takeaways, and tied for second with 17 forced fumbles.
"I started off in Denver (as a defensive coordinator in 2017), took over for Wade Phillips," Woods said. "That first year we played really well, but didn't get the wins and it's all about winning. But statistically we played well defensively. So there's things I learned in Denver.
The New Orleans Saints hired five new coaches for the 2023 season. The new hires are Joe Woods (defensive coordinator), Clancy Barone (tight ends coach), Marcus Robertson (secondary coach), Todd Grantham (defensive line coach), and Kevin Carberry (assistant offensive line coach).
"And then in Cleveland, the first year (2020) was Covid. I know everybody experienced it, but I was there for a month and they had to send us home, so I was in Denver meeting with coaches, doing all those types of things. But that first year, we went to the playoffs and won for the first time in 26 years for that organization, and then the next year we were top five in defense. So I really was proud of some of the things we accomplished, we just fell short my last year there."
Woods said he has immersed himself in film study since joining the Saints as he evaluates the team's defensive personnel.
"Since I got here, I've been going until midnight, just watching games," he said. "That's what I've done, but I really feel like we have a very dominant front seven. I know there's a bunch of guys in free agency, but defensively I thought they did a great job up front, I thought the linebackers played really well. I know there were some injuries in the back end, but I feel like we're definitely very talented defensively and they've played well defensively here for a long time."
Woods said he was eager to join the Saints organization.
"So much tradition down here," he said. "Going back to 2009 (when he was defensive backs coach for the Vikings), we played in the NFC Championship Game against New Orleans, that game with (Brett) Favre. Just the fan base here is unbelievable
"We had to go and get these earplugs made for us, and I remember standing on the sideline in that game, and I was standing next to a coach probably (about three feet away). I couldn't hear him. So I just always remember that experience.
"Experiencing that, that's an organization that you want to be a part of. So I was definitely excited. Throughout my career, you have your ups and downs, you have your successes, but I think everything prepares you for these types of opportunities."