Ravens' Kokinis hired as Browns GM
CLEVELAND -- Baltimore pro personnel director George Kokinis has been hired as Cleveland's general manager, reuniting him with new Browns coach and close friend Eric Mangini.
Kokinis, who began his NFL career as an intern in the Browns' operations department in 1991, was hand-picked by Mangini, who recommended him during his first interview with Browns owner Randy Lerner on Dec. 30. Mangini took over as Cleveland's coach on Jan. 7, just one week after he was fired following three seasons with the New York Jets.
Determined to match a coach and GM who can work well together after the Romeo Crennel-Phil Savage relationship failed, Lerner is teaming up a pair of friends who shared an apartment when they first broke into the league and have remained tight.
"The Browns are excited to bring George back to Cleveland where he began his NFL career," Lerner said in a team release. "He is a tireless worker that has spent his entire career evaluating talent and knows the type of player it takes to be successful in this league and in our division."
Terms of Kokinis' deal were not immediately known.
The Browns have scheduled a news conference on Monday to introduce the 41-year-old Kokinis, who spent 13 years with the Ravens, the past six as the club's director of pro personnel.
"I would like to thank Randy Lerner for the extraordinary opportunity," Kokinis said in a statement. "Cleveland is a football town and I look forward to working alongside Eric Mangini and the rest of the organization."
Kokinis' hiring has been expected for more than a week. He spent two days in meetings earlier this week at the team's headquarters. Along with Mangini and members of his new coaching staff, the pair evaluated Cleveland's current roster and began early preparations for free agency, the draft, minicamp and summer training camp.
With Baltimore, Kokinis was one of Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome's top aides. He was responsible for analyzing rosters, evaluating the free-agent market and assisting in the negotiations of draft picks.
In Cleveland, Kokinis, who wasn't on Lerner's radar screen when his GM search began, inherits a team with less talent and many more problems than in Baltimore.
The Browns had high hopes following a 10-6 season in 2007, but instead they crumbled in '08 under the pressure of those expectations. They went 1-7 at home and were reduced to playing their fourth-string quarterback down the stretch because of injuries. There was also a lack of needed discipline as players did what they pleased.
Mangini was hired by Lerner, in part, to bring more discipline to the team.
It's unclear how Kokinis and Mangini will divide their duties or who will have final say over the Browns' 53-man roster.
The Browns should benefit by Kokinis' intimate knowledge of the AFC North. He worked as an advance scout with the Ravens and played a key role in their week-to-week assessment of their upcoming opponent.
One of the first decisions facing the Mangini-Kokinis team will be what do with quarterback Derek Anderson, who was benched midway through the season for Brady Quinn. Anderson is owed a $5 million roster bonus in March. If he is deemed expendable, the Browns could trade him for draft picks. Savage dealt several 2009 picks, leaving the Browns with only four selections in this April's draft.
Lerner interviewed five people for the GM vacancy. In addition to Kokinis, Lerner spoke with former New England vice president of personnel Scott Pioli, who recently took over as GM in Kansas City, Browns director of player personnel T.J. McCreight, Giants director of player personnel David Gettleman and former Jacksonville vice president of player personnel James "Shack" Harris.
McCreight spent most of last week in Mobile, Ala., scouting the Senior Bowl. He was reportedly fired on Friday, but the Browns have not confirmed his ouster.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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