Lerner denies firing Kokinis, seeks NFL general to help shape Browns
Cleveland Browns owner
"George is no longer active within our organization, but at this time has not been fired,'' Lerner said in a telephone interview.
This could be simple semantics because it's widely expected the Browns will attempt to cancel the remainder of Kokinis' five-year contract without paying him, citing "for cause'' and contending that he wasn't doing his job.
The story is shrouded in mystery, and Lerner no-commented almost all specific elements of it. He said he "began to have doubts'' about Kokinis by training camp, but wouldn't be specific.
Lerner has to be wondering about the kind of work environment Mangini has created, now that two of the people the coach wanted to help him shape the organization -- director of team operations
NFL sources have told SI.com's
The Browns have had a disastrous year, dating to the firing of general manager
Asked about Mangini's fate, Lerner said, "I still believe in Eric, and we're trying to give him the resources he needs to be successful. We all knew the situation we were in when Eric took over.''
Lerner wouldn't comment on specific candidates to take the role of organizational godfather, but he's clearly looking for a
The Browns' owner will have a difficult decision to make after the season. Cleveland will have a high first-round draft choice in April, with a major need at quarterback, and the quarterback crop will be strong. The Savage-Crennel regime drafted
If Lerner has major doubts about Mangini come January, his decision about whether to go after a new coach will be doubly difficult. If Lerner thinks Mangini might be a short-timer, he could be inclined to plunge into the deep pool of coaching candidates come the offseason.