Browns GM Kokinis ousted
George Kokinis is out as general manager of the Cleveland Browns after less than one year on the job. The manner in which he will make his official exit was in dispute Monday, according to team and league sources.
Kokinis refused to resign when pressed by owner Randy Lerner, who then persisted in seeking a dismissal "for cause," citing Kokinis for failing to meet the specific standards as dictated by his contract, the sources said. The team's security and legal departments were reviewing phone records to build its case against Kokinis, a team source said.
There also were discussions of whether the two sides could reach a financial settlement, sources said.
Multiple media reports initially reported Kokinis had been fired.
Television station WKYC and The Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported Monday night that Kokinis was ushered out of the Berea facility by security around lunchtime Monday.
In a statement, the Browns said: "Cleveland Browns general manager George Kokinis is no longer actively involved with the organization. In response to rumors and reports that Kokinis was escorted out of the building today, the Browns deny those reports. In the interest of protecting the parties involved we will withhold further comment."
Dialogue between the two sides actually occurred for the past week before Sunday's 30-6 loss to the Bears sent the Browns reeling into the bye week with a 1-7 record. For the past month, Lerner has independently investigated professional and personal conduct by Kokinis, head coach Eric Mangini and director of football operations Erin O'Brien, who left the organization within the past few days, sources said. Mangini said Monday he had spoken with Lerner and was told his job was safe for now.
Lerner told the media after Sunday's defeat that changes were coming.
Ernie Accorsi, former general manager of the New York Giants, Baltimore Colts and Browns, is being sought by Lerner as a consultant, a league source said. Accorsi could not be reached for comment. Accorsi has served in a consulting capacity on numerous occasions for teams and has an alliance with former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, who was hired by Lerner as a consultant on Oct. 17.
Kokinis was brought in to lead the team after the Browns had hired Mangini, who coached last year with the New York Jets. It's the first major change for a Browns team that has struggled in all aspects of the game. Lerner said Sunday night he is "sick" about the state of his NFL team but he will not make a coaching change.
Lerner told the Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon-Journal on Sunday he would like to bring in a "strong, credible, serious leader" to help run his team.
Lerner did not expand on who that person might be or if that person currently worked for the Browns.
"The highest priority that I have is a strong, credible, serious leader within the building to guide decisions in a far more conspicuous, open transparent way," Lerner said Sunday, according to The Plain Dealer. "I can maybe defend decisions by saying I've sought advice and I've brought people in, and we've gone to see people -- and I think my highest priority is to have a stable figure that represents the voice that explains the decisions."
Mangini said he would be open to such a hire.
"If you can add quality people that can help you get better, then you do that," Mangini said. "You're always searching for those opportunities."
Kokinis was supposed to be that person. Mangini handpicked him to be the team's GM -- both began their careers in Cleveland in the early 1990s when Bill Belichick was coaching the Browns.
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A source told The Plain Dealer "Kokinis is a great guy who does not deserve this. He is taking the fall for the team's problems and it's not right.''
The Plain Dealer reported that Lerner had tried to get Kokinis to take a more visible role as the team's GM, encouraging him to be interviewed recently by Sports Illustrated.
Kokinis, who had 18 years' worth of NFL experience, was the final voice on the Browns' 53-man roster.
Mangini's job security was not a topic in Cleveland's locker room, which was mostly vacant Monday.
Linebacker David Bowens, who played for Mangini in New York, feels the coach's system may not take hold until the team starts winning.
"Part of the problem is we have a lot of guys on this team that have been used to losing, been used to being on teams that haven't won a lot of games and don't understand the process," Bowens said. "I think just selling out and buying in. I firmly believe in just hard work and execution. The coaches can coach their tails off, they can get two hours sleep a week, but they're not playing the game.
"A lot of mistakes are made by us as players. Once we assess that and just buy in, commit ourselves to each other, I think things will change."
Mangini believes his process for turning around the team will work despite a horrid first half of the season. Mangini said he and Lerner share the same vision for improving the Browns.
Mangini and his coaching staff will spend the next week -- the Browns don't play again until Nov. 16 -- evaluating and analyzing every aspect of the team. Despite Cleveland's offense being ranked 31st overall and scoring just five touchdowns, Mangini has no plans to change offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's duties.
However, he may rely more on quarterbacks coach Carl Smith, a former offensive coordinator with New Orleans and Jacksonville.
Mangini's also holding off on making a decision at quarterback. Derek Anderson posted a 10.5 rating in Sunday's debacle before he was yanked in the final minutes for Brady Quinn, who began the season as Cleveland's starter but was benched after just 10 quarters.
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Mangini lamented Cleveland's five turnovers, including two fumbles -- one by rookie wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, the other by tight end Steve Heiden -- following completions by Anderson that sabotaged potential scoring chances. Mangini felt the Browns were moving the ball and Anderson can't be judged solely on his atrocious statistics.
"You never just want to look at the numbers, you want to always look at it in the context of the game," Mangini said.
Anderson's numbers are impossible to ignore.
According to STATS LLC, his 36.2 QB rating is the lowest of any player through eight weeks since Oakland's Marc Wilson in 1981. Also, Anderson's 320 yards passing in the past four games are the fewest by any quarterback with a minimum of 80 attempts since Chicago's Vince Evans in '81.
Anderson, meanwhile, said he's "not happy about anything."
"I'm not happy that I got pulled out, I'm not happy we lost, I'm not happy about anybody's play, my play, nothing," he said. "I haven't been happy."
Mangini, too, is dismayed by the losing but remains confident the Browns will improve.
"This is a process," Mangini said. "We [Mangini and Lerner] talked about that quite a bit, and that doesn't change. There's things that go along with that and that doesn't mean we're not looking to win every game, it doesn't mean we're not looking to improve each week. On the contrary, that's exactly what we're going to do.
"Randy and I share the same vision and that's something that we talked about and what we do talk about quite a bit is what's the best way to achieve that. I've always had good conversations with him and always will."
Mangini said he shared Lerner's distaste for the Browns' putrid performance so far.
"But I also believe in the things that we're doing and I understand it doesn't happen overnight," he said. "There's not one formula in terms of specific ingredients, but there is a very specific approach that you have to take and I believe in that. It has been successful. It will be successful here."
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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