While there's some buzz that consultant Ernie Accorsi will lean on Giants' contacts for a Panthers GM recommendation, another (more controversial) name has emerged.
The one-year Browns GM has some ties to Accorsi -- not unlike the Falcons' recommended Thomas Dimitroff, Accorsi has a past with Kokinis. A gopher on Bill Belichick teams in the early 90s, along with various other current, former, and future GMs, he was there with Accorsi (at the time, Browns GM). Accorsi did push Kokinis for the Atlanta job behind Dimitroff; Kokinis had a shot at the post-Carl Peterson Chiefs, too.
Bill Belichick himself, curmudgeon mumbler he is, will recommend guys, too. Who knows what he thinks of Kokinis at this point, but any association with the guy tends to get front office guys a fresh job whenever they're interested.
Kokinis, of course, comes from the Ravens organization - on paper, a fantastic thing. GM Ozzie Newsome is considered one of the best; the team has sustained success since 2000 (their Super Bowl year; 8 playoff appearances after that don't hurt either). Kokinis has worked with, besides Belichick, a lot of coaches with pull in the league - Brian Billick, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Jack Del Rio, and Rex Ryan.
He left the Ravens' organization in 09, finding himself behind Eric Decosta as heir apparent to Newsome (that doesn't appear to have changed, and probably won't). Rumors abound - his story suggests that the Browns had to promise him final say to have him leave, and that he was fired over a disagreement in whether or not he ever got that power. Other rumors suggest potential drug use and/or affairs with other employees. A third suggests that, at 1-7, Kokinis had already been let go, unwilling to let him finish the season. Either way, not the way to go.
It's a situation steeped in the northeastern power struggle of football - between Boston and New York, you have 7 Super Bowl appearances by the Giants and Patriots, and with the Jets, two more championship game appearances -- upon which many of the related coaches and staff either come from, or were hired into, situations to fight the Pats/Giants over the years. Cleveland fits in there too - plenty of former Pats staffers, with the added problem of being the ones to let Belichick and staff go.
Kokinis' background suggests a large amount of available coaches - from the retread Billick, to retread Del Rio, to fresh retread Rex Ryan. Ryan, by and large, was the guy who was felt more ready for the job with the Ravens, with the added benefit of promoting Chuck Pagano (now a cancer patient/occasional Colts coach) as DC. That might make Ryan, now looking to be available, as a possible candidate; it could link his twin, Rob (a former Patriot coach and later Browns DC). It might involve Mangini, now a TV commentator and reportedly a longstanding friend of Kokinis' despite the supposed power struggle.
I don't know if Kokinis is really a candidate, or just a rumor floated by an agent to someone who likes to talk -- but I do know this, the idea is scary and Kokinis was a flameout.
I know that I came into this thinking that a reputable guy like Accorsi, who is more or less as advertised it seems - is still prone to cronyism. He's going to put out there guys like this, guys he's worked with. I've suggested myself that cronyism can be a good thing. The buddy system works if it gives you guys you know you work well with, that work in your system.
But a line of thought that leads from Accorsi to Kokinis to Mangini - basically reuniting a 2009 Browns team - is not where this team should head. Mangini, Belichick's former Browns ball boy because they went to the same alma mater, and Kokinis as Accorsi's guy - a baseball assistant on a team Accorsi's godson was on.
To make matters worse - according to Accorsi, Arthur Blank was given three recommendations. Supposedly falling in love with Dimitroff before even interviewing Kokinis, they also never got to the third candidate - Tom Heckert, who's about to be fired by (you guessed it if you're sharp) the Browns.