Yesterday, on ESPN 850 AM’s The Really Big Show, Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer further beat down the well worn path of the guy who was hired by their radio station to cover the Cleveland Browns immediately after the Plain Dealer deemed him morally unfit to do the same job. Specifically, Rizzo and Goldhammer once again trolled their listeners by reminding them that they know what really happened to cause former Browns GM George Kokinis’s sudden and mysterious mid-season departure from the Browns in 2009, but they’re still not telling.
Since this bit still works well enough to cause a traffic bump at this website from searches about Kokinis, I’ll explain again:
Immediately upon Kokinis’s termination in October of 2009, off-the-record reports started coming out of Berea that Kokinis had a substance abuse problem, including a report to me from someone who, like Rizzo and Goldhammer, is paid and credentialed to cover the team. As noted here before, it’s something that’s easy to allege, hard to prove, and with the grey area between use and abuse being what it is, it’s probably also something that’s hard to fire someone for without fear of a wrongful termination suit.
What’s not hard is taking a quick look at the trajectory that Kokinis’s career path has taken since he lost his job with the Browns, as well as other plainly apparent circumstances making it more likely that the reports about a substance abuse issue are true. So consider that before he was hired by the Browns in 2009, Kokinis was routinely on the short list of candidates for other GM positions that came open around the same time. In 2008, former Browns GM Ernie Accorsi, then working as a special consultant for the Atlanta Falcons, recommended Kokinis as one of three finalists for the Atlanta’s GM position that ended up going to Tom Dimitroff (also one of Accorsi’s final three picks for the job). Also in 2008, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Kokinis was one of four finalists being considered by owner Lamar Hunt for the Kansas City Chiefs job.
Now in 2012, almost three years after he was dismissed by the Browns, Kokinis’s name never comes up as a candidate for open GM positions, and really hasn’t since 2009. And probably even more tellingly, Kokinis received a demotion from the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he returned to work as a “Senior Personnel Assistant” in 2010, when he’d been Director of Pro Personnel for the same organization before leaving for the Browns in ’09.
Kokinis’s official position on his termination has always been that it resulted from a dispute with ownership and then head coach Eric Mangini over powers and responsibilities that arose from the Browns having been required to make certain representations about the same in order for Kokinis to be released from his contract with the Ravens (which provided that Kokinis could leave the Ravens only for a promotion). While this could have been the sort of thing to exacerbate a substance abuse problem (as much as any of a number of things might have done the same), if the power struggle was the most important factor at play here, it seems unlikely that Kokinis’s career would have stalled as it has since 2009.
Also consider that Mangini’s personal bond with Kokinis goes back to Hartford, Connecticut where they both grew up, and through the NFL, where they came up together as assistants with the Browns in the nineties. We know that Hartford and personal bonds are extremely important to Mangini, which explains he’d help keep the truth so closely guarded despite a strong personal interest in having it aired out here.
Finally, since this came up yesterday, too, as it always does when Kokinis comes up: Kokinis’s firing had nothing to do with the simultaneous dismissal of Mangini’s then personal assistant Erin O’Brien other than the timing. I have it directly from folks who were working in the building at the time that O’Brien was fired for talking about an alleged romantic relationship between owner Randy Lerner and another Browns employee. Back in ’09, the PD quoted unnamed sources as saying that O’Brien “had burned so many bridges that Mangini could not save her job.” Too many bridges in this case was mainly one, and the explosion of the Dawg Pound Mike/Kokinis disasters offered good cover for getting rid of O’Brien, too.
Which is all for today here. Back tomorrow or first thing next week with a special announcement and who knows what else.