CLEVELAND -- The Browns hired George Kokinis as their general manager Sunday, reuniting him with close friend and new Cleveland head coach Eric Mangini.
Kokinis, who began his NFL career in 1991 as an intern in the Browns' operations department, was hand-picked by Mangini, who recommended him to Browns owner Randy Lerner during an interview. 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 two 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 statement released by the team. "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 weren't immediately known.
"I would like to thank Randy Lerner for the extraordinary opportunity," Kokinis said in the statement. "Cleveland is a football town, and I look forward to working alongside Eric Mangini and the rest of the organization."
Cleveland's GM position has been open since Lerner fired Savage after the Browns concluded a 4-12 season. The Savage-Crennel team produced a 24-40 record and no playoff appearances in four years. Lerner still owes the two millions after signing them to contract extensions last winter.
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, they evaluated Cleveland's current roster and began early preparations for free agency, the draft, minicamp and summer training camp.
As one of Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome's top aides, Kokinis 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.
|Tony Dejak / Associated Press|
|Eric Mangini once shared an apartment with new Browns GM George Kokinis.|
The Browns had high hopes following a 10-6 season in 2007, but instead, they crumbled in 2008 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.
It's unclear how Kokinis and Mangini will divide their duties or who will have final say over the Browns' 53-man roster.
Kokinis began his NFL scouting career with the Browns in 1991 after serving an internship in the team's operations department. He then spent five seasons with the Browns' scouting department (1991-95), including two working alongside Mangini, before the team relocated to Baltimore.
Kokinis spent four years as the team's Northeast area scout from 1996 to 1999. He was promoted in 2000 and spent the next three seasons (2000 to 2002) as the Ravens' assistant director of pro personnel. His primary responsibility was the advance scouting of opponents and providing reports to the coaching staff. In 2003, Kokinis was promoted to the Ravens' director of pro personnel and was responsible for all aspects of the pro personnel department.
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's deemed expendable, the Browns could trade Anderson 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 Patriots vice president of personnel Scott Pioli, who recently took over as the Kansas City Chiefs' GM; Browns director of player personnel T.J. McCreight; New York Giants director of player personnel David Gettleman and former Jacksonville Jaguars vice president of player personnel James "Shack" Harris.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press