Mangini mum on GM’s sudden ouster
BEREA, Ohio – The convoluted ouster of George Kokinis as Cleveland’s general manager barely made a ripple in the Browns’ locker room.
These guys are accustomed to losses.
Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas hardly knew Kokinis, who was hired in January and left the club under unexplained circumstances on Monday.
“He wasn’t around too much, and when he was, he was pretty quiet,” Thomas said.
Everyone inside team headquarters at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. was pretty quiet on Tuesday. The Browns, who have a bye this week, went about their business as rumors swirled about Kokinis, the events that led up to his departure and who – or if – anyone will replace him.
Browns coach Eric Mangini offered no details about the team’s decision to move on without his longtime friend and hand-picked GM.
“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.
“There’s really a variety of reasons,” he said, “and I’ll just leave it at that.”
Browns owner Randy Lerner, who following Sunday’s loss in Chicago said he planned to hire a “serious, credible” football authority to help run his fumbling franchise, was not available for comment. 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.”
It’s still not known if Kokinis was fired or forced out by the Browns, who are 1-7 and have been overmatched in most of their games.
There are reports that Kokinis was asked to resign by Lerner, who pressed the former GM and sought to dismiss him “for cause.” Citing a team source, ESPN.com reported that the team’s security and legal department were reviewing phone records to build its case against Kokinis.
The Browns denied reports that Kokinis was escorted from the building on Monday.
As for a possible replacement for Kokinis, Mangini would not comment when asked if former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar might handle some of the GM’s responsibilities. Kosar was recently brought in by Lerner in an unspecified consulting role that could expand.
Also, the team has not addressed reports that former Browns and New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, a close friend of Lerner’s, might return to Cleveland in some capacity. Accorsi helped Lerner search for a GM earlier this year and has been working as a consultant for the NFL since retiring in 2007.
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.”
Mangini said he learned under coaching mentors Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick the benefits of being open to the opinions of others.
“You appreciate the feedback,” he said. “You appreciate the honesty. You appreciate people trying to constantly improve at what they’re doing or constantly help the group improve. You want to hire as many people as you possibly can like that.”
Mangini and Kokinis began their careers together working under Belichick, when New England’s coach was with the Browns in the 1990s.
Their breakup as a management team came less than a year after former GM Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel were dismissed after failing to make Cleveland a consistent winner.
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.”