Mangini won't discuss GM's ouster

Updated: November 4, 2009, 11:25 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini is not offering any details about the team's unexplained dismissal of his friend, general manager George Kokinis.

Kokinis was on the job for less than a year when he was relieved of his duties Monday. The Browns, who have a bye this week, went about their business Tuesday as rumors swirled about Kokinis, the events that led up to his departure and who -- or if -- anyone will replace him.

"Anytime a decision like this is made it is difficult personally and professionally," Mangini said. "George is a friend of mine and I respect him and I wish his family well. I can tell you that for a variety of reasons things didn't work out. You never go into a situation like this with the intention of it not working out.

"We felt that, organizationally, this was the best decision in order to move forward."

That was about as deep as Mangini would venture into the Kokinis matter. Mangini spent most of his news conference politely deflecting questions about why the decision was made.

He was asked if there were legal reasons why he couldn't address Kokinis' exit.

[+] EnlargeGeorge Kokinis
AP Photo/Mark DuncanGeorge Kokinis is no longer the general manager of the Cleveland Browns following a 1-7 start in his first season.

"There's really a variety of reasons," he said, "and I'll just leave it at that."

Mangini deflected several questions about Kokinis' stunning departure. The team has not said if he was fired or resigned. Kokinis was hired in January, two weeks after Mangini became Cleveland's coach. He previously worked with the coach under Bill Belichick in Cleveland in the 1990s.

Team and league sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter that 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 team's security and legal department were reviewing phone records to build its case against Kokinis, a team source 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."

Lerner told the media after Sunday's loss to Chicago that changes were coming. Lerner was not available for comment Tuesday. A team spokesman said there was no immediate plans for Lerner to address the media.

Lerner did spend two hours meeting with two disgruntled season-ticket holders, who have been urging Cleveland fans to stay out of their seats for the Nov. 16 kickoff against Baltimore in protest of the team's futility. "Dawg Pound Mike" Randall said Lerner was open to their ideas and gave them a few of his own.

"He's trying to get the Browns on the right track," Randall said. "He wants it to happen now. He cares deeply."

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.

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 not be resistant to the Browns giving final personnel decisions to someone else in the future.

"My goal is to win and my goal is to improve," he said. "There's never opposition to someone that can help us achieve that goal. That's true here. It was true in New York with the Jets."

For now, Kokinis' parting is just more of the same for the Browns.

"It doesn't affect me," tight end Steve Heiden said. "I can speak for myself on this because I've been here a while and I've seen some changes. I can't control anything that goes on anywhere else besides at this locker. That's the truth and that's all I'm trying to do.

"I'm in my bubble and I'm staying there."

Information from The Associated Press, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter was used in this report.

ALSO SEE