As published in the February 2nd, 2009 issue of The Cauldron
To: George Kokinis, General Manager, Cleveland Browns
From: Reid J May, Sports Columnist, The Cauldron
First and foremost, welcome (back) to Cleveland and the Cleveland Browns organization. We are very excited to begin the newest era—and let me tell you, we have seen many—in Brown’s town. Your addition to the front office provides us with the final piece to an exciting new management team, which we hope will bring us long awaited success in the National Football League. As an avid supporter of the Browns, I thought I might drop a few words of advice, to help you transition into the job.
George, you come from a Baltimore Ravens organization that has a reputation for breeding top-flight NFL executives—we love that Ozzie Newsome tree—and your resume speaks volumes about your abilities. In the past seventeen years, you’ve provided scouting services for college prospects and regional athletes, conducted advance scouting of Raven’s opponents, negotiated the contracts of draft picks, acquired veteran players through trades, and evaluated each year’s free agent market. Simply put, on the outside you look like a solid GM selection.
Yet, I have some concerns.
Most importantly, George, are you prepared to handle the environment in Cleveland? I know you have been here before, but things are different than they were in 1995. This is no easy place to work. We Clevelander’s tend to have a short fuse and low appreciation for ineffective performances on and off the field. Don’t misunderstand me, we love the Browns win or lose—and we see a lot of losing—but we are not afraid to let you know when we are disappointed. When 2008 didn’t go our way, Phil Savage could not handle the criticism of one fan’s post-game email. His inappropriate, profane response embarrassed our city.
My next concern also stems from an incident last year. One of our best receivers contracted an infection, which the organization chose to keep quiet. When this player got upset, he was suspended. Are you going to be honest with us, George, even when it might be embarrassing for the organization to admit it has a potential problem?
How transparent will your front office be? We hear a lot right now about transparent governments, and I can promise you the city of Cleveland expects the Browns to be no different. We will always want to know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Are you prepared to be accountable to the fans?
Will our active approach to the off-season continue? While we were certainly disappointed with some of the non-football related things Phil Savage did, we loved his aggressive attitude on the free agent market and in the draft. Because of Savage, we have franchise cornerstones like Joe Thomas, Brady Quinn, Eric Steinbach and Shaun Rogers. Will you be prepared to eagerly pursue talent like this?
Are you prepared to take a stand behind one of the two potential Quarterbacks? The Browns are notorious for pre-season deliberations regarding the man under center. I can confidently say we are sick of it. It is time to pick between Quinn and Anderson and stick to him, for at least two or three seasons. Give someone a chance to excel, rather than pulling the plug after a bad game or two. We want a franchise quarterback and we keep hearing the organization say we have two. Pick one and trade the other. The last thing you need is another training camp battle.
Finally, George, are you prepared to take a stand for the players you think best fit our roster? I know you are a close friend of Eric Mangini and he is responsible for your hiring, but you must be ready to exert authority. As our General Manager, we expect you to lead our effort to put the best team on the field, and let Coach Mangini take it from there. If one person in this relationship takes too much or too little power, we will have another Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage type conflict. That is the last—aside from another loss to Pittsburgh—thing we want.
Bottom line here, Cleveland wants a leader. We want someone smart and aggressive, who will not hesitate to make gutsy decisions. We want a decisive man who will stand behind the decisions he does (or doesn’t make) and who will stand up for himself and his team. We want a unifier, not a divider. We want a proactive, positive, honest front office. If you can give this to us, George, we can give you all the support you can ask for. You are the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns and we have the best fans in the world.
Thanks for listening.
Reid J May