- Chris Mortensen, NFL reporter
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The Cleveland Browns continue to move closer to the hiring of former Jets coach Eric Mangini after the team received permission to interview Baltimore Ravens pro personnel director George Kokinis for their general manager's vacancy.
The Browns have continued their search process, interviewing other candidates, but sources say Mangini had a "compelling" interview and owner Randy Lerner is fascinated with him.
If Mangini gets the job to replace the fired Romeo Crennel, the sources said the favorite to become the team's general manager would be George Kokinis, who is the director of pro personnel for the Baltimore Ravens.
The Browns received permission to speak with Kokinis after the Ravens beat Miami 27-9 on Sunday to advance in the AFC playoffs.
Kokinis and Mangini each were members of the Browns organization when Bill Belichick was coach. Mangini formally joined the staff as an assistant coach in 1995. Kokinis was a scout from 1991 to 1995 before moving with the team to Baltimore.
If Lerner is comfortable with Kokinis, he could proceed with negotiations that could conclude soon with Mangini being hired as coach, team sources said.
Scott Pioli, the Patriots' executive vice president of player personnel, has been considered the favorite for the GM job, but sources said Saturday his demands were "extreme," and Lerner is hesitant to accept the terms unless there is some level of compromise.
On Sunday, one prominent team source debunked the speculation that Pioli had made "extreme" demands that chilled talks with Lerner.
"Talks [with Pioli] never even progressed to that stage so that's misleading and somebody else's agenda," the source said. "[Pioli] has been an absolute professional in the process. This isn't about Pioli. His credentials speak volumes but [Lerner] is focused on the coach and Mangini has made a terrific impression. We'll know pretty soon [on the direction]."
Pioli is scheduled to interview with the Kansas City Chiefs no later than Monday.
If Pioli is hired, the leading head coaching candidates are believed to be Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who also has interviewed with Lerner. McDaniels has not been ruled out after an impressive interview Friday, one team source said.
As the list of names indicate, Lerner keeps reaching for the Belichick tree -- from Pioli, to Ferentz (who worked with Pioli in Cleveland), to Mangini, to Kokinis, to McDaniels.
Even though Kokinis would be the leading GM candidate with Mangini as coach, current Browns director of player personnel T.J. McCreight also is in the running.
Lerner's firing of former GM Phil Savage had little or nothing to do with Savage's personnel decisions; Lerner specifically said the dismissal stemmed from a difference in "management style."
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Browns canceled their Saturday interview with Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz due to a scheduling conflict.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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