Jim Leonhard: Browns defensive coordinator candidate 2023

Head coach Jim Leonhard of the Wisconsin Badgers. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
Head coach Jim Leonhard of the Wisconsin Badgers. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

Jim Leonhard went 4-3 as the interim coach for Wisconsin but won’t return in 2023. Could that open the door for him to become the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator?

Throughout this season, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods has been on the hot seat. While they’ve turned things around over the past couple of weeks, some have been unable to put the meltdowns against the Carolina Panthers, the New York Jets, and the Atlanta Falcons in the rearview.

In addition to those struggles on the field, it’s fair to ask if he’s lost the respect of his players. Myles Garrett has had no problem speaking out this season — and last — about his frustrations. And while he says he’s not targeting Woods, it’s hard to see who else he’s suggesting isn’t making the proper adjustments.

With all that being said, it’s highly probable Cleveland looks to replace Woods this offseason. If so, there’s a new name on the open market they can consider as Jim Leonhard just let Wisconsin know he won’t return in 2023 after finishing the year as their interim coach.

Originally, it appeared he would return as the defensive coordinator under new hire Luke Fickell but that wound up not being the case as he posted a thank you to the program on Twitter.

Leonhard had plenty of success as the defensive coordinator for the Badgers, finishing in the top-five four different times. He also had the No. 1 defense in 2021 according to David Cobb of CBS Sports.

"“In his six seasons as defensive coordinator, Wisconsin finished in top-five nationally for total defense four times. His 2021 unit ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense, allowing just 239.1 yards per game.” — Cobb, CBS Sports"

That success is why he would have been welcomed back in Wisconsin, and why there should be plenty of suitors for the 40-year-old coach.

Former Journeyman finished his career with the Cleveland Browns

For those who might think the name sounds familiar, it could be due to the fact that Leonhard was once a member of the Browns roster. An undrafted safety out of Wisconsin, he was in the NFL from 2005 through 2014.

He had two stints with the Buffalo Bills while also playing for the New York Jets, and Baltimore Ravens. He then spent 2012 with the Denver Broncos but then finished his career in 2014 with the Browns.

That year, he appeared in all 16 games with five starts. He had 43 tackles, a sack, and two interceptions.

He might not have deep ties to the team but they would still be wise to see if he would be interested in a position, should it become available.