Cleveland general manager leaves squad
BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns are currently without a general manager after George Kokinis left the club under unexplained circumstances.
After reports surfaced that Kokinis was fired, the team issued an awkwardly worded statement Monday night saying the GM "is no longer actively involved with the organization." The Browns also denied reports that Kokinis was escorted from their team headquarters.
Kokinis' apparent ouster came one day after owner Randy Lerner said he wanted to hire a "strong, credible, serious" football adviser to help run his struggling team, which is off to a 1-7 start. Kokinis was hired on Jan. 23, two weeks after the Browns named Eric Mangini as their fourth coach since 1999.
The Browns said they would withhold further comment "in the interest of protecting the parties involved."
Before coming to Cleveland, Kokinis spent 13 years with Baltimore, the past six seasons as the Ravens' director of pro personnel. He had little or no authority with the Browns as Mangini, who was fired by the New York Jets after last season, has enjoyed full control over football operations.
It's unclear if Kokinis was fired or forced out. His strange departure is the latest twist for the Browns, the closest thing the NFL has to a daily soap opera.
Already in Mangini's first year in Cleveland, the Browns have dealt with a lengthy list of on- and off-the-field circumstances.
Mangini was criticized for making his rookies take a 10-hour bus ride to his football camp in Connecticut and later for fining one of his players $1,701 for not paying for a $3 bottle of water during a hotel stay. There's been the ongoing quarterback saga involving Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, the trade of wide receiver Braylon Edwards two days after he allegedly punched a friend of NBA star LeBron James, a flu outbreak that hit 12 players, cornerback Eric Wright's car accident and other situations.
And of course, there has been the losing, something the Mangini-Kokinis team was supposed to fix.
Kokinis essentially was hand-picked by Mangini to be his GM. The two worked together under former Browns coach Bill Belichick in the 1990s.
Kokinis attended Cleveland's 30-6 loss in Chicago on Sunday. He sat in the press box and had little interaction with anyone, which has been his customary mode of operation since the day he joined the Browns. Kokinis had not formally spoken to Cleveland media members since draft day in April.
He was usually on the field during training camp practices, but Kokinis never held court with reporters like his predecessor, Phil Savage, routinely did for four years. When the Browns traded Edwards to the Jets last month, it was Mangini and not Kokinis who explained Cleveland's decision to deal one of its only stars.
Following Sunday's lopsided loss against the Bears, Lerner told reporters he wouldn't fire Mangini during the team's bye week, but that he wanted to hire a football authority to help guide the organization.
Recently, Lerner brought in former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar in an unspecified consulting role. One possibility could be Ernie Accorsi, who was Cleveland's GM from 1985-92, when Kosar led the Browns to three AFC title games. Accorsi was the New York Giants' GM for nine years before retiring after the 2006 season. His biggest move was a trade with San Diego for quarterback Eli Manning.
Mangini said he would welcome anyone who could help the Browns get better.
"If you can add quality people that can help you get better, then you do that," he said. "You're always searching for those opportunities."
· The Kansas City Chiefs, apparently fearful of losing in arbitration, agreed yesterday to cut Larry Johnson's suspension in half for making gay slurs. The agreement saved the running back about $315,000. The Chiefs issued a terse announcement saying they had made the settlement in conjunction with the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association. Originally, they suspended the former two-time Pro Bowler two weeks, which would have cost him about $630,000. He will still miss the game at Jacksonville this week and not participate in team activities until Nov. 9.
· The Oakland Raiders say they will undertake a "serious evaluation" of domestic violence allegations against coach Tom Cable. In a statement released yesterday, the team says it does not condone the alleged attacks by Cable against his first wife and former girlfriend. The team also notes it has fired employees for misconduct in the past.
Cable declined to respond to any specific questions yesterday about whether he has an anger management issue following the allegations from his first wife and former girlfriend on ESPN that he physically abused them at various times during their relationships. Cable said he was the coach of the Raiders and that he thought "my future is to be the coach of the Raiders."
· The San Diego Chargers have released wide receiver Chris Chambers a day after he had a key catch in a 24-16 win over the Oakland Raiders. Coach Norv Turner said the Chargers released Chambers because of the emergence of Malcom Floyd and the need to sign a linebacker because of an injury to Tim Dobbins on Sunday.
· Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers came out of Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings with a sprain on one foot and sprained toe on the other. Packers coach Mike McCarthy says Rodgers could miss time in practice this week but is expected to play Sunday at Tampa Bay without hurting his mobility.