Browns put GM search on hold

Published 2:50 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Browns’ search for a new general manager has stalled like one of their scoring drives.

Owner Randy Lerner’s interview with George Kokinis, Baltimore’s director of pro personnel, won’t take place until Sunday at the earliest because the Ravens’ executive is involved in preparations for Saturday’s AFC playoff game at Tennessee.

The 41-year-old Kokinis emerged as a strong GM candidate in recent days as the Browns’ quest to hire a new coach focused on former New York Jets coach Eric Mangini.

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During his interview with Lerner in New York last week, Mangini — the leading candidate for the job — identified Kokinis as someone whom he would like to work with. The two men began their NFL careers in the early 1990s in Cleveland under coach Bill Belichick and later worked together in Baltimore. They have remained close friends.

If Lerner is committed to Mangini, he may not wait to speak with Kokinis before hiring his next coach.

Lerner is adamant about hiring a coach with NFL head coaching experience, which is why Mangini, who went 23-25 and took the Jets to one playoff game in three years, is his preferred choice. Lerner is also mindful that he must hire a coach and GM who get along and can coexist and build the Browns together.

Savage and former Browns coach Romeo Crennel were not always in harmony.

Hiring the coach before the executive may be unorthodox, but not if Lerner has promised Mangini full control of the Browns’ roster — power like Belichick enjoys in New England.

Lerner wants his next coach to bring discipline to the Browns, who went 4-12 this season and had their fair share of off-the-field issues.

Meanwhile, Scott Pioli, New England’s director of player personnel, interviewed Monday with the Kansas City Chiefs, persons with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.