It wasn’t long after he was hired as the Browns’ new special teams coordinator that Amos Jones reached out to Phil Dawson.
The following conversation had little to do with football -- “mostly deer hunting,” Jones said -- but reaffirmed why Jones jumped at the opportunity to return to the AFC North.
“He was excited for me,” Jones said Wednesday at his introductory press conference. “Obviously, he has great admiration for this city and for this organization. He is a Brown for life. He has played, obviously, at two other places, but the biggest thing on Phil was just, ‘Hey, go and enjoy it. It is a great fan base, and it is a great organization to be a part of.’”
Jones knew that all too well.
After 25 years of coaching at the collegiate level, Jones got his NFL start in Pittsburgh, where he served as an assistant coach from 2007 to 2011 before taking over as special teams coordinator in 2012. One year later, he was in Arizona, where he held the same position for the past five seasons.
Jones said he missed the “excitement” and “physicality” of the division. And he’ll be leading a group of young special teamers in a place where he knows football is king.
“The exciting thing of being here is being part of this city because I know it is a football town. I look forward to trying to flip that from the standpoint of the record,” Jones said. “There is not a whole lot we can do about the past. We have to move forward. The thing that excites me the most are those types of things and just getting back into the AFC North.”
Jones will take over a special teams unit that experienced a roller coaster of highs and lows throughout Cleveland’s winless 2017 season.
Britton Colquitt was one of the league’s most consistent punters and finished the season with a franchise-record net average of 40.6. Rookie Zane Gonzalez missed a couple of key kicks and extra points during the first half of the season but finished strong to finish the year 15-of-20 on field goals. Jabrill Peppers and Matthew Dayes flashed, at times, as returners and Cleveland was largely stout against opponents’ kick and punt returns.
Penalties, though, were a constant problem for a group that was constantly shuffled because of injuries and roster movement. Two big mistakes -- a blocked punt in the season opener against Pittsburgh and a lengthy punt return surrendered against Green Bay -- were arguably the difference in two winnable games.
Jones is coming from a team in Arizona that averaged out as one of the oldest in the NFL last season. However, one of Jones’ few rookies, defensive back Budda Baker, made the Pro Bowl as a special teams player.
He’s excited to work with what promises to be a group that again skews on the younger side.
“They probably have great enthusiasm, somewhat a clean slate,” Jones said. “What you teach them is the exciting part of it. You know they are going to play hard hopefully and all of those things. I don’t look at youth as a negative. I look at it as a positive because in reality, they don’t play special teams in college anymore.
“We kind of enjoy that part of it because it is a clean slate. You can kind of see them progress through training camp and all of that kind of stuff to the point where you hope you get them to a Pro Bowl level.”