Browns' GM interviews on hold

Updated: January 5, 2009, 6:10 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- The Browns' search for a new general manager has stalled like one of their scoring drives.

Owner Randy Lerner's interview with George Kokinis, Baltimore's director of pro personnel, won't take place until Sunday at the earliest because the Ravens' executive is involved in preparations for Saturday's AFC playoff game at Tennessee.

The 41-year-old Kokinis emerged as a strong GM candidate in recent days as the Browns' quest to hire a new coach focused on former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini.

During his interview with Lerner in New York last week, Mangini -- the leading candidate for the job -- identified Kokinis as someone whom he would like to work with. The two men began their NFL careers in the early 1990s in Cleveland under coach Bill Belichick and later worked together in Baltimore. They have remained close friends.

If Lerner is committed to Mangini, he may not wait to speak with Kokinis before hiring his next coach.

Lerner is adamant about hiring a coach with NFL head coaching experience, which is why Mangini, who went 23-25 and took the Jets to one playoff game in three years, is his preferred choice. Lerner is also mindful that he must hire a coach and GM who get along and can coexist and build the Browns together.

Savage and former Browns coach Romeo Crennel were not always in harmony.

Hiring the coach before the executive may be unorthodox, but not if Lerner has promised Mangini full control of the Browns' roster -- power like Belichick enjoys in New England.

Lerner wants his next coach to bring discipline to the Browns, who went 4-12 this season and had their fair share of off-the-field issues.

Meanwhile, Scott Pioli, New England's director of player personnel, interviewed Monday with the Kansas City Chiefs, persons with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Pioli was believed to be Lerner's top choice to replace Phil Savage, who was fired last month after four seasons with Cleveland.

A Mangini-Pioli pairing would be ideal for the Browns, but there could be other factors preventing the two from reuniting in Cleveland, where they started. Mangini turned in the Patrots in the infamous "Spygate" scandal and his relationship cooled with Belichick and possibly with Pioli as well.

Kokinis may not have a resume to match Pioli's, but he is highly regarded in Baltimore as GM Ozzie Newsome's top aide. Along with helping Newsome during free agency, Kokinis assists in contract negotiations for draft picks. Last year, he was part of an eight-man panel that selected John Harbaugh as Baltimore's coach.

One of the drawbacks to hiring Kokinis could be his lack of involvement in the NFL draft. Newsome and Eric DeCosta, his director of college scouting, are the ones who head the draft in Baltimore. But Cleveland's scouting and personnel departments -- led by player personnel director T.J. McCreight -- are in better shape than they were before Savage's arrival.

For that reason, Lerner may overlook one of Kokinis' perceived shortcomings.

Kokinis began his scouting career with Browns in 1991 after serving as an intern in the team's operations department. He was a Northeast area scout for the Ravens from 1996-99 before he was promoted to assistant director of pro personnel.

Lerner has also interviewed New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for his coaching vacancy.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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