Lerner to interview Ravens’ Kokinis

Published 8:21 am Monday, January 5, 2009

Browns owner Randy Lerner will interview Baltimore director of pro personnel George Kokinis for the club’s general manager position, a meeting that could clear the way for Cleveland to hire fired New York Jets coach Eric Mangini.

The Browns received permission to speak with Kokinis after the Ravens advanced in the AFC playoffs with a 27-9 win at Miami on Sunday. They’ll play at Tennessee on Saturday.

It is not known when Kokinis’ interview will take place. Lerner has spent the past week meeting with coaching and GM candidates in the New York area. Mangini, the front-runner to become Cleveland’s coach, has expressed an interest in working with Kokinis, a longtime friend who worked with him for two years in Cleveland and one in Baltimore.

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Interestingly, Kokinis has spent the past five years working in a similar role to the one Phil Savage had with the Ravens before he joined the Browns in 2004. Savage was fired following Cleveland’s season-ending loss last month in Pittsburgh.

Lerner’s top choice to replace Savage is Scott Pioli, New England’s director of player personnel. The Browns have remained in contact with Pioli, who is still weighing his interest in the Cleveland job and will reportedly interview with the Kansas City Chiefs in the next few days.

Lerner wants to make sure his coach and GM are in concert after Savage and former Browns coach Romeo Crennel’s relationship soured in their last two seasons together.

It’s possible Pioli may want to stay in New England and he may not want to work again with Mangini, the one who turned the Patriots in for their infamous ‘‘Spygate’’ caper.

Mangini has been Lerner’s preferred choice to take over in Cleveland since he was let go by the Jets, who missed the playoffs with a 1-4 finish as quarterback Brett Favre struggled down the stretch. Lerner believes the 37-year-old Mangini, who went 23-26 and made one postseason appearance in three seasons with New York, will win big at some point and doesn’t want to let him slip away.

Lerner has also interviewed New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for Cleveland’s coaching job in recent days.

The Browns are not likely to wait to speak with fired Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who’s taking some time off to be with his family following his stunning dismissal after 14 years with the Broncos.