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Browns hire Phillips as WR coach

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Longtime college coach Joker Phillips was named an assistant by the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.

Phillips comes to Cleveland as wide receivers coach after two years in the same position at Florida and as the Gators’ recruiting coordinator. Before that, he was head coach at Kentucky for three years.

A former NFL wide receiver, Phillips replaces Mike McDaniel, who left coach Mike Pettine’s staff after the Browns’ season ended.

“I think the first thing when you meet Joker, you just get a sense for his passion for the game and specifically wide receiver play,” Pettine said. “That’s his specialty and he loves it. Everybody I’ve talked to that’s the first thing that comes out, just his mentality and how much he truly cares about that position.”

New Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has ties to Phillips from the 1980s. The two worked together at Notre Dame.

“We always stayed in contact,” Phillips said. “I wanted to come up here and help him and be with him again because he’s such a young knowledgeable coach.

“I’ve seen him work his magic with the different quarterbacks he’s worked with. I just felt like it was a good opportunity for me to get with the person I want to help and help be successful.”

Much of Phillips’ 26-year career has been spent coaching wide receivers.

“I’ve had a lot of success at the position and one of the reasons is I know what I’m looking for and I know what (wide receivers) look like,” Phillips said. “I played the position for a long time and been able to corral those different personalities because you’re going to get a different personality in the wide receiver room.

“When I was the coordinator at Kentucky, everybody wondered why I didn’t go coach the quarterbacks. I wanted to be able to manage the personalities in that room because you see so many different levels in that room. The team takes on that personality. I wanted to be able to control that.”

Phillips first served as Kentucky’s wide receivers coach from 1991 to 1996. He then spent two seasons at Cincinnati, two at Minnesota and one each at Notre Dame and South Carolina before going back to Kentucky.

In 2010, Phillips replaced Rich Brooks as Kentucky’s head coach. He posted a 13-24 record in three seasons.

“The word that kept coming back is passion, energy and how important it is to him. Very competitive,” Pettine said. “That kind of gets channeled with him through his players. It was really an easy decision for us. Not very long — 10 or 15 minutes of sitting down with him — I had a pretty good sense that he was going to be our guy.”

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