While rumors swirl and many in the media dig frantically to try to understand why former general manager George Kokinis has left the building, the organization hasn't skipped a beat. Throughout the past week, head coach Eric Mangini has become well versed in assuming some of the responsibilities of the GM position, with the assistance of the directors of pro and college scouting.
Many widely assume the head coach of the struggling Browns used Kokinis as a scapegoat, or threw his friend under the bus. It's a song whose refrain we've heard many times in Cleveland, but this one has a totally different chorus.
One perspective we've heard frequently of late is that Mangini was only doing what he needed to do in keeping the team and personnel areas of the organization moving forward. To a degree, due to inability, inexperience or lack of fundamentals at the GM position displayed earlier this year, Mangini's stance may be warranted.
At the same time, while the head coach did not specifically feed the GM to the wolves, he may have helped prepare the meal.
Mangini's demanding style and personality can and did overwhelm Kokinis at times, but the challenges of working with Mangini just added to the difficulty the former Browns GM had in maintaining the wide array of responsibilities of the position.
Per our sources, although Kokinis is well thought-of in football circles and noted to be a solid football man, his inexperience with myriad duties of a GM at the professional level indicated that the responsibility was just too much, too soon for Kokinis. Early in the process, Kokinis struggled to maintain and initiate discussions needed with agents and players while maintaining the NFL's never-ending and essential game of deception.
The media speculation surfacing of late paints an unflattering picture of the Browns organization and the former GM. A not-inconsiderable amount of this speculation has been unsubstantiated. Those with the knowledge and potential willingness to discuss the rampant speculation are not permitted to discuss it on the record due to potential legal action.
While fingers are being pointed at the GM, in fairness, Kokinis was at a disadvantage in his first front office leadership opportunity. Laid back in demeanor, and quiet bordering on shy, Kokinis was never on firm footing in a Browns front office dominated by Mangini's personality. Like his predecessor in the job, Kokinis' strength is in watching film and evaluating personnel. Unlike Savage, however, Kokinis' weakness was reportedly his inability to be a forceful hand within the Browns front office.
As the friendship with Mangini began to wane shortly after his hire, Kokinis immediately became disenchanted with his move to Cleveland. Growing up in the Baltimore Ravens organization, Kokinis had experienced a different type of environment which was predicated on trust, discussion and respect in reaching a common goal. These were goals of the Browns front office headed into this year, but in Baltimore they were and are a reality.
Because of their differing styles, what was initially a collegial working relationship had become, in essence, Kokinis working for Mangini -- a perception shared by nearly every employee within the Browns organization.
Systematically, Kokinis' grasp of the GM authority was stripped. Some of this was his own doing, but the end result enabled Mangini to strengthen his hold on all facets of the organization.
The situation within the Browns front office was difficult. Kokinis was outnumbered early and often throughout the decision-making process. Often, Mike Keenan, the President of the Browns and Dawn Aponte, the Vice President of Football Administration, sided with Mangini on personnel and other team-related issues, despite having limited experience on the football side of the operations.
According to our sources, a sense of having a lack of support and respect wore on the former GM. Rather than continuing to battle, Kokinis ultimately was resigned to the fact he was not in charge -- not even an equal to Mangini within the organizational structure.
A selling point upon Kokinis' hire was his long-time friendship and mutual respect with Mangini going back to their time together in Cleveland in the early 1990's.
While certainly down now, Kokinis will reemerge. He is highly regarded, as individuals rallying to his defense in the wake of last week's news indicated. Since most within the NFL knows how dysfunctional the Cleveland Browns organization happens to be at present, Kokinis' problems in Berea won't be regarded in the same light they might be elsewhere.
Unfortunately for the Cleveland Browns football organization, Eric Mangini, and George Kokinis, their friendship failed, much like the past decade of Browns football.
And now, in a few short months, the same fate may befall the head coach.