Whither Scott Pioli?
That's a very good question, and one the brass of the Browns are wondering themselves. On numerous occasions over the last three days, the Browns felt they had made enough headway with Pioli to secure a deal with the Patriots vice president of player personnel. Even as there has been near-unanimity amongst numerous sources that the level of power Pioli is seeking was a hurdle for owner Randy Lerner, it seemed as though the Browns were ready to trudge forward with the New England executive and his demands.
Unfortunately for all involved, especially the Browns, Pioli has been "dragging his feet" as one source put it.
So much so, in fact, that yesterday morning, one league source told The OBR that the talks between Lerner and Pioli were "dead in the water". When pressed on whether there was a chance for the talks to resume, the source said he "wasn't certain if they were terminal, or if there was a chance they could be revived."
Since then, we have heard various accounts from different sources, ranging from the "talks were back on" to "the talks were never off" in the first place to "the talks are DOA". Basically, there is conflicting information as far as the eye can see, which is certainly to be expected given Pioli has been immersed in the Belichickian Way for well over a decade and Lerner is such a private individual.
So, what does all of this mean and where does it all stand?
The Browns are very anxious for Pioli to make a decision one way or the other. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, sources have stated, is extremely anxious for Pioli to make a decision and is privately pushing for an end to this sooner rather than later. With so many sides pushing for a decision on the part of Pioli, as one league source said last night, it's only a matter of time until word of backup candidates begin to leak out in an effort to force the executive's hand. Speaking of which...
--Earlier this afternoon, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that George Kokinis, Baltimore Ravens' director of pro personnel, would become the favorite for the Browns' vacant general manager position should Pioli and the Browns fail to reach an agreement. If that's the case, it's news to Baltimore as one Ravens front office source tells The OBR that the Browns have yet to ask permission to speak to Kokinis. Of course, the organization could simply be waiting for a resolution of the Pioli situation before turning their official attention to other candidates, including Kokinis.
--Multiple sources have confirmed to The OBR over the last 24 hours that the reported interest on the part of Lerner in former New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini is both significant and genuine. That's not to say that the Belichick disciple will be the next head coach of the Browns, but it does mean that the possibility exists and is very real.
--Contrary to reports that have surfaced over the last 12 hours or so, the Browns did meet with Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz in the Nashville area earlier today. There is no word yet on who was at the interview or how it went.
--New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels met with Lerner for nearly four hours yesterday, and, according to one source, made a very impressive showing in front of his prospective employer. "He's a very articulate young man, and extremely detailed in his approach to what a head coach should be," said the source. "Even given his age -- especially given his age -- he came off as someone who is ready to be a NFL head coach."