BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns welcomed a new general manager on Monday.
George Kokinis has a lot of work to do.
|Mark Duncan / Associated Press|
|New Browns general manager George Kokinis has the responsibility of building a playoff-caliber roster in Cleveland.|
The Browns introduced Kokinis, who was the Baltimore Ravens' pro personnel director for the past six seasons, as their GM at a press conference Monday. He began his professional career in Cleveland's operations department nearly 20 years ago and received an enthusiastic recommendation to Browns owner Randy Lerner by new head coach Eric Mangini, who has been friends with Kokinis since their early days working for the team.
At one time, Mangini, a former ballboy and public-relations intern for Cleveland, and Kokinis, who joined the Browns in 1991, lived together in an apartment not far from the team's headquarters.
The former roommates are now sharing a team.
Moments after stepping to the podium, Kokinis, previously unknown to Cleveland fans before emerging as a GM front-runner, offered a rhetorical question.
"Why am I here?" asked Kokinis, 41. "I'm here because I believe in this owner. I believe in this head coach. And I believe in the fans of Cleveland."
Belief alone won't be enough for Kokinis, who inherits a roster with much less talent than the one he left behind in Baltimore. He's also taking over a Browns team that has lost 11 straight games to the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers -- the AFC North's black-and-gold standard.
Kokinis will have ultimate say over the Browns' 53-man roster, but he insists he won't make any decisions without input from Mangini and others.
"Once we get all the information and hear everybody's opinion about it, we're going to come to the best decision for this football team," Kokinis said. "When you talk to me, you're probably going to hear me say that more often than not, 'What is best for the Cleveland Browns?' That is what's important."
Kokinis was reluctant to offer an evaluation of Cleveland's current players, perhaps because he already knows a number of them might not be around once he and Mangini finish analyzing the roster. One of Kokinis' main duties with the Ravens was to dissect opposing teams, so he has a broad knowledge of the Browns' talent.
Kokinis was named Baltimore's director of pro personnel in 2003. He had wide-ranging responsibilities while working for Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who raved about his former employee.
"His work ethic is the best anyone can have," Newsome said. "He is very well prepared for this opportunity, and he deserves it. Knowing how competitive George is, it will make the games against the Browns very intense but also enjoyable because of my respect for him."
Although they haven't worked for the same team in quite some time, Mangini and Kokinis have remained close. Their relationship, which began with them looking to help anyway possible under former Browns coach Bill Belichick, was built on trust, respect and a shared idea of what it takes to be successful.
"We believe in the same things, the same core values of players, people and all that it takes to build a championship caliber organization," Kokinis said. "I don't think it's just working together or not working together that has changed that. He (Mangini) and I kind of thought about that early in our career, and I've never wavered, and I don't think he's ever wavered.
"I believe in the head coach. I have relationships all over this league. I think chemistry is important. I think respecting somebody's opinion professionally is important. Because when disputes come up, you still have respect for somebody. When you have a personal relationship like (us), you know you can have that."
Mangini, too, believes his bond with Kokinis will benefit the Browns.
"It's critical," Mangini said. "There's going to be so many different things that we're going to agree on and that we're going to disagree on. And at the end of the day, both understanding that the goal is to make the best decision for the Browns. That's what it's always going to come down to. The give and take of ideas and the process will be very thorough."
It appeared Kokinis' hiring would end a month of upheaval for the Browns. Not so. On Monday, vice chairman Bob Kain, who joined the team in 2007 as an adviser to Lerner, abruptly left the team. Kain had been instrumental in helping Lerner purchase soccer club Aston Villa in the English Premier League in 2006.
The Browns also announced the resignation of T.J. McCreight, their director of player personnel who had interviewed with Lerner for the GM opening. McCreight attended last week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Lerner didn't speak at the news conference, staying in the back of the room to listen to Kokinis' remarks.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press