The appointment of Hobart alum George Kokinis ’89 as the Cleveland Browns’ new general manager was covered in Cleveland.com, the online presence of both The Plain Dealer and Sun News. The news outlet had been closely following Kokinis’ interview process and likely appointment.
In his most recent position as pro personnel director of the Baltimore Ravens, he assisted the general manager in analyzing NFL rosters and coordinating and evaluating each year’s free agency market. Along with personnel recommendations, Kokinis assisted the vice president of football administration in negotiating contracts for some of the Ravens’ draft picks.
According to the most recent article on Cleveland.com, “The courtship of George Kokinis as Browns general manager stretched over nearly a month, affording fans ample time to trace his rise from Bill Belichick gofer in Cleveland to pro personnel director under Ozzie Newsome with the Baltimore Ravens. “
Kokinis earned his B.A. from Hobart with a major in psychology. He earned the ECAC Baseball Player of the Year honors in 1989 as a pitcher for the Statesmen, and was selected to represent the conference in a New York vs. New Jersey All-Star Game played at Yankee Stadium.
The article covers a news conference at which Kokinis spoke of his appointment to General Manager and goals for the team, “I’m here because I want to create a championship-caliber football organization,” Kokinis is quoted. “It can be done. It’s a matter of rolling up the sleeves and getting after it, and that’s what we’re prepared to do.”
The full article follows.
‘It can be done’: New GM Kokinis stays positive (if vague) in joining Browns
Tony Grossi • Plain Dealer Reporter • January 26, 2009
BEREA — The courtship of George Kokinis as Browns general manager stretched over nearly a month, affording fans ample time to trace his rise from Bill Belichick gofer in Cleveland to pro personnel director under Ozzie Newsome with the Baltimore Ravens.
The career path of Kokinis is dotted unmistakably in orange and brown. What was left to be learned was Kokinis’ opinions of the team that he and new coach Eric Mangini inherited when owner Randy Lerner blew up the Phil Savage-Romeo Crennel regime.
For instance, how far is the talent level below those of division powers Pittsburgh and Baltimore? What are his feelings about the quarterback dilemma? Which was the fluke season, 2007 or 2008? Things like that.
Those questions, for the most part, were left unanswered during a news conference Monday as Kokinis chose his words carefully and spoke in generalities about joining Mangini in the latest Browns rebuilding project.
“I’m here because I want to create a championship-caliber football organization,” Kokinis said. “It can be done. It’s a matter of rolling up the sleeves and getting after it, and that’s what we’re prepared to do.”
In response to one question, Kokinis said he would be in charge of selecting the 53-player roster — as was Savage — but he continually emphasized that he and Mangini, a longtime friend, would work in concert.
“I think any great decision comes when you get all the information that you can,” Kokinis said. “Once we get all the information and hear everybody’s opinion about it, we’re going to come to the best decision for the football team. What is best for the Cleveland Browns? That’s what is important.”
Although Kokinis began his football career as a college scout, he has spent the past nine years in the Ravens’ pro personnel department, where he evaluated upcoming opponents and prospective free agents. Nevertheless, he said he would conduct the team’s draft meetings and be the final voice in the Browns’ draft.
“The college process is something I’m very familiar with,” Kokinis said. “It’s not foreign to me. I’ve been part of 17 draft rooms, draft strategy, been in all the meetings. I know how they work. I’ve actually used the same meeting style in free agency that they use in college.
Photo from 1995 Browns media guideThe long road from college scouting assistant to general manager can be a successful one for Kokinis, says veteran NFL GM Ernie Accorsi. “He has been with a winning organization and had the privilege of working for Ozzie Newsome,” Accorsi said. “He’s qualified and the Cleveland Browns are in good hands.”
“The other thing, Phil did bring in this system, and it’s the same system, and the language and vocabulary are the same. That’s why I don’t feel anxious about starting at this point, for any reason. I know the process. The scouts have been scheduled to come in for scouting meetings on Feb. 6, long before I got here. So I feel good about it. I feel good about my preparation, in terms of the college side of it.”
Kokinis’ experience in pro personnel is not a negative but a positive, said Ernie Accorsi, the former Browns team executive who was retained by Lerner as a consultant in the GM search.
Accorsi, who originally hired Kokinis in Cleveland in 1991, believes a keen knowledge of the NFL system and personnel is a key ingredient in a successful general manager. Accorsi sat in for two hours of Kokinis’ final interview with Lerner last week.
“George’s integrity and his strength as a young man is the same today as it was when I brought him to the Cleveland Browns as an intern,” Accorsi wrote in an e-mail. “What is different is that he has had 18 years’ experience in every phase of the player personnel profession in the National Football League, from handling the ‘reaction box,’ a thankless, grueling assignment, to college scouting and running the Ravens’ pro personnel department.
“He has been with a winning organization and had the privilege of working for Ozzie Newsome. He’s qualified and the Cleveland Browns are in good hands.”
Even though Kokinis’ job with the Ravens required him to know the personnel of each division opponent inside and out, he was reluctant Monday to share his opinions of the Browns.
“I think there’s skill level on this team. I do,” he said. “I think there’s capable players on this team, competitive players on this team. There’s core talent [here]. But to go into specifics would be tough at this time.”
In a separate interview afterward, Mangini said the first order of business for his new operation would be for the three coordinators to evaluate the roster and then to meet with Kokinis for an overall consensus appraisal.
“We’ll look at them not just in terms of how they played last year but how they project into our system,” Mangini said of the players. “What are the medical issues? Try to understand the complete player. And that will help us shape the needs [and] the game plan of moving forward in free agency and the draft.”
Kokinis said much of his evaluation with, say, the quarterback position will depend on the offensive system explained to him by newly appointed coordinator Brian Daboll.
“The Steelers, why they’ve been so good is because they fit their personnel to what they do,” Kokinis said. “New England, they fit their personnel to what they do. The best teams do that. For me to pick one [quarterback] or the other, I need to get more familiar with what Brian and Eric want to do. It’s tough for me to say we’re going to pick [one] because he’s got a strong arm.”
Kokinis and Mangini disputed that the job was rigged for Kokinis solely because of Mangini’s recommendation. Mangini said Lerner already had Kokinis’ name on his list before the coach brought him up during his first interview.
Kokinis maintained that part of the delay in making the announcement official was for him to make sure he was comfortable with the setup. Kokinis and Mangini met for two days in Berea last week. Even after those sessions, the Browns took five days to consummate a deal.
“I think it really went both ways, to come back here and feel comfortable with what my new surroundings would be, even though I’d been here before,” Kokinis said.
Kokinis’ arrival has been marked by national rumors of unrest in the Browns’ scouting department.
On Friday, T.J. McCreight, the team’s player personnel director, was fired. On Monday, the Browns acknowledged McCreight’s departure by saying they have accepted his “resignation.”
Kokinis would not be specific about additions he planned to make to the personnel staff.
“I have no set agenda in terms of scouts right now,” the new GM said. “I think their main focus is to do everything they can do to prepare this personnel department for the draft. They’re going to be relied upon heavily. They’re going to be relied on to be loyal, to be dedicated, to roll up their sleeves and get into it, just like the rest of us.”
The Browns did not disclose the length of Kokinis’ deal or any terms. Lerner watched the news conference from the back of the media room and departed without taking questions.