Is George Kokinis ready for the big time?

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Is George Kokinis ready for the big time?


By Bill Smith

The wrong choice at QB will cost you games. The wrong choice at GM will cost you seasons and fans. As the Browns continue their search for a new GM, things are looking more and more like Randy Learner’s choice will be George Kokinis. Kokinis is the pro personnel director for the Ravens. He is the lone survivor from the 1995 Belichick debacle and move to Maryland. While Belichick was fired, most of the staff went to Baltimore with owner Art Modell.

The Good:

Kokinis and newly announced head coach Eric Mangini are great friends. It is important that the coach and GM are on the same page. Several of the new Browns brought in by Phil Savage as GM were too busy picking sprinters out of their hind ends to get on the field. Coach Romeo Crennel was to be gracious less than enthusiastic about playing the new guys. As a result, we have no idea how good 4th round choice TE Martin Rucker might be in replacing the injured Kelvin Winslow. Savage traded up to get Rucker. We also never got to see much of fellow 4th round pick LB Beau Bell and 6th round choice WR Paul Hubbard despite multiple injuries in each position.

Kokinis has received the Ernie Accorsi seal of approval. Accorsi was a former GM for the Browns and as GM in New York helped the Giants build a Super Bowl winner. He told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Kokinis was one of three recommendations he made to Falcons owner Arthur Blank when helping Blank find a GM last year. Accorsi feels Kokinis is ready for the big chair in the office. Several other personnel guys in the NFL told the PD that they felt Kokinis may not be ready for the GM responsibility.

The Bad

If you recall, the Browns brought Phil Savage from Baltimore in 2005. Savage was the director of player personnel with the Ravens. Kokinis replaced Savage for pro personnel while Eric DeCosta became director of college scouting. Both worked directly for GM Ozzie Newsome.

Does Kokinis have enough college scouting experience to do the GM job? The Raven’s website says it best. “Kokinis was the Ravens’ Northeast area scout for 4 years, and also conducted ‘the box’ workouts of college prospects before moving over to pro personnel…” Four years in one of the least productive college football areas of the country isn’t much depth of experience for a GM. For me, the fact that they had to add “the box” workouts is a red flag the size of the state of Colorado.

Savage was the #2 man in the Ravens organization in charge of both college and pro scouting working under GM Newsome. Kokinis has half that job and it is the pro side not the college side.

My opinion:

I see the Browns making the same mistake they did before—hiring someone that has never had the GM responsibility on his shoulders. This team is at a critical cross roads very similar to the one they faced after the 2004 season.

In 2002, the Browns against a weak schedule finished 9-7 and got the AFC wild card and a ticket to the playoffs. The Browns entered the 2003 with huge expectations. But, in 03 the team bus ended up on blocks after the wheels were stolen and were 5-11 and last in the AFC North. Going into the 04 season, there were calls for the heads of everyone from the coaching staff and GM to the guys that sell popcorn. The call was for change and change is what the Browns got in 04. Things got so bad that Coach Butch Davis quit after the team went 3-11 and they ended 4-12 for the season. That lead to the previous house cleaning that swept in Savage and Crennel. The new administration went 6-10 in 2005 and 4-12 in 06. Is any of this starting to sound familiar?

This year the Browns were coming off a 10-6 season in 2007 with great expectations. Again, the 07 record came against a weak 4th place schedule. In 08 the team went 4-12. At least Crennel didn’t bail out part way through the debacle. Again everyone was swept out.

While the Browns at least got a coach with previous HC experience, they need a GM with similar depth of credentials. The team seems to be making the same mistake (or perhaps a worse one) by selecting someone that does not have experience. Those that fail to learn from history are not, as the famous saying goes, doomed to repeat it. They are just doomed.

If the Browns are not able to pull themselves up with a few quality free agents and good drafts in the next few years, they may become the Detroit Lions of the second decades of this century. That would be yet another indelible stain on the history of one of the great franchises in the NFL.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits He has also published several novels on and edits .

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