Ravens' Kokinis, Browns to talk about GM job


Browns owner Randy Lerner will interview Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis for the club's general manager position, a meeting that could clear the way for Cleveland to hire fired New York Jets coach Eric Mangini. The Browns received permission to speak with Kokinis after the Ravens advanced in the AFC playoffs with a 27-9 win at Miami yesterday. Kokinis has served in his current position for the past six seasons. But nothing has been scheduled, a source told the Akron Beacon Journal, as Lerner continues to explore all options. Mangini, the front-runner to become Cleveland's coach, has expressed an interest in working with Kokinis, a longtime friend who worked with him for two years in Cleveland and one in Baltimore. Kokinis began his NFL scouting career with the Browns in 1991 after serving as an intern in the operations department. He has worked 18 years with Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome. Mangini came to the Browns in 1994 as a ballboy and public relations intern and moved up to coaches' assistant under Bill Belichick in 1995. A close friend of Mangini's and, like him, a native of Connecticut, Kokinis serves on the board of directors of Mangini's foundation, which benefits under-resourced children and teachers. Mangini, 37, was the first person interviewed Tuesday after Lerner fired coach Romeo Crennel and GM Phil Savage, a former Ravens executive.

Patriots: : New England will use a franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel, reported, citing multiple sources. Placing the tag on Cassel, which would force him to accept a one-year contract, would give the Patriots the flexibility of keeping him or trading him, depending on the status of Tom Brady's recovery from knee surgery for next season.

Dolphins: : Bill Parcells will stay as executive vice president of football operations and not leave for another NFL team this offseason, team owner H. Wayne Huizenga said. "Bill's going to stay," Huizenga said. "He told me [Friday] he's going to stay. He said he likes it here." The possibility Parcells might leave the team after only one season surfaced last week - just as the team he rebuilt earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2001. Parcells' contract allowed him to leave after one season and still receive the $12 million remaining on his four-year deal if the team is sold.

Cowher: : Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher doesn't plan to coach in the NFL next year and will stay with CBS Sports as a studio analyst. Cowher was recently wooed by the Jets but said during The NFL Today yesterday that he's taking it "year-to-year." Cowher recently took himself out of the running for the Jets' coaching vacancy.

Raiders: : Owner Al Davis had a 90-minute phone conversation with Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride about the team's coaching vacancy. Gilbride is the first outside candidate to talk to Davis about the job.

Television: : The Chargers' overtime win over the visiting Colts tied the mark for the best overnight rating for a Saturday wild-card game since 1999. The game earned an 18.3 overnight rating and a 30 share on NBC, the network said. That equaled the 2003 Atlanta-Green Bay game for the highest mark for a Saturday wild-card playoff since 1999, when the Arizona-Dallas matchup received a 20.9 rating and a 38 share. Overnight ratings measure the 55 largest TV markets in the U.S., covering nearly 70 percent of the country. Each overnight rating point represents about 735,000 TV homes. The rating is the percentage of all homes with TVs, whether or not they are in use. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

Phelps reaches deal to pitch cars in China

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Months after winning a record eight Olympic gold medals in China, swimmer Michael Phelps has reached an agreement to make the Baltimore resident the brand spokesman for carmaker Mazda in China. The sponsorship is the largest single deal of its kind with a western celebrity in Chinese history, according to a statement from DMG Entertainment, which announced the deal. However, terms were not disclosed. Phelps, a winner of 14 Olympic gold medals overall, will exclusively endorse the new Mazda 6 model, and the campaign will be unveiled by the middle of 2009. Several companies have signed sponsorship deals with Phelps since his performance at the Summer Games in Beijing, including Kellogg's, AT&T and Subway.

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