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, ESPN.com 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
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.
College football: : Boston College has threatened to fire coach Jeff Jagodzinski if he interviews today as scheduled for the head coaching vacancy with the New York Jets, ESPN.com reported, citing multiple sources. Nevertheless, Jagodzinski still plans to speak with the Jets, the Web site said. If athletic director Gene DeFilippo fires Jagodzinski, the school would promote offensive coordinator Steve Logan to head coach, sources told ESPN.com. Jagodzinski, 45, has led the Golden Eagles to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in his first two seasons, going 11-3 in 2007 and 9-5 in 2008. His 11 wins his first season at BC were the most by a first-year coach in ACC history.
More college football: : Oklahoma defensive back Dominique Franks called Florida quarterback Tim Tebow "the fourth-best quarterback in our conference." Franks' response stemmed from questions about whether Oklahoma's pass defense was better than its No. 98 national ranking (253 yards per game). "The three best quarterbacks in the country came from the Big 12," said Franks, referring to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Texas' Colt McCoy and Texas Tech's Graham Harrell. Florida plays Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series national title game Thursday in Miami.
College basketball: : Health concerns kept North Carolina State women's coach Kay Yow off the bench for a fourth consecutive game yesterday, and the Wolfpack suffered a 56-55 setback at home to South Carolina. Yow, 66, is battling a recurrence of the breast cancer that she first was diagnosed with in 1987. Associate head coach Stephanie Glance again filled in for Yow. A buzzer-beating layup by Demetress Adams handed N.C. State (8-7) its first defeat in Yow's absence. The Gamecocks are 8-5. School officials say Yow's status for next week's game against No. 2 North Carolina probably won't be known until later this week.
NHL: : Brian Rolston scored a power-play goal 1:43 into overtime, and Scott Clemmensen made 17 saves to help the host Devils beat the Senators in overtime for their fourth win in five games and seventh in 10.
More hockey:: James van Riemsdyk scored at 2:49 of overtime to give the United States a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic in the fifth-place game in the world junior championship in Ottawa.
Horse racing: : Tizfiz beat Marzelline by a nose to capture the $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. Under Agapito Delgadillo, Tizfiz ran the 1 1/8 -mile turf course in 1 minute, 49.62 seconds. ... Gemswick Park won the $100,000 Old Hat Stakes, holding off even-money favorite Elusive Heat and Frolic's Dream at the wire at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The 3-year-old filly, ridden by John Velazquez, ran the six furlongs in 1:09.77, nosing out previously unbeaten Elusive Heat.
Skiing: : With the finish and the victory literally in sight, Lindsey Vonn made a costly error. Vonn, 24, crashed just five gates before the finish on the icy Crveni Spust slalom course, losing a likely victory and the overall lead in the World Cup standings in Zagreb, Croatia. Maria Riesch finished in a combined time of 1:58.69 to win her third straight slalom and take the lead in the standings. Vonn led after the opening leg and was 0.94 of a second faster than Riesch at the second intermediate time in the final run before hitting a gate and crashing. She was not injured.