April 20, 2014

Michael Lombardi has a lot to prove to Cleveland Browns fans

Michael_LombardiI’ve come a long way with the Cleveland Browns since I started writing about them in the Romeo Crennel era. The hope of being a fan seeped strongly into everything I did and I always looked for ways to think about things working out. I wouldn’t say all that hope and patience is gone, but it is decidedly muted from where it was. It has been replaced by what I think is a healthy dose of skepticism. It isn’t negativity, but when the risks of a situation reveal themselves to me, I now find it most important to point them out. When I wrote about Joe Banner earlier, I had concerns about him not because I don’t believe he’s qualified to be the CEO of the Cleveland Browns, but because he was overseeing another period of massive change. Today, he made another big move when he replaced the recently departed Tom Heckert with Mike Lombardi.

Tom Heckert was a General Manager and Michael Lombardi has been named VP of Player Personnel, which obviously means the position could be slightly different, but Jimmy Haslam used the two job titles pretty interchangeably in press conferences this off-season. It stands to reason that there won’t be any other significant changes to the personnel department and that Michael Lombardi will fill the void between the scouts, coach and CEO that Tom Heckert once did between the scouts, coach and Mike Holmgren. We obviously don’t know exactly how decisions were made with Heckert and company manning the draft and free agency. We also probably won’t know exactly how decisions will be made with Lombardi, Banner and Chudzinski. Point being that there’s really no reason to hit the panic button or call this thing a colossal failure. At least not yet.

Still, I think it’s fair to at least say that Michael Lombardi has a ton to prove. He’s replacing the one really effective part of the Browns’ operation over the last few years. Tom Heckert doesn’t have a spotless record, but it’s really hard to argue with a guy who has added so many young, effective players from relative obscurity. I really don’t want to get into the whole record of Tom Heckert, but suffice to say that it appears today to be better than average, if not excellent.

So how do you rate Michael Lombardi right this second? I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to go back in time and put every draft pick that ever occurred in Mike Lombardi’s presence on his record. There’s just no telling how much say he had when working for the Raiders, for example. Every organization runs a bit differently and certainly an Al Davis organization tends to reflect on him rather than his employees.

All that being said, there’s no way that I can sit back and tell everyone to relax and enjoy the ride either. There’s very little in the track record over the last few years that makes me confident that the Browns have solved all their issues in terms of acquiring talent via the draft and free agency. If anything with Tom Heckert, I didn’t think they had a problem to solve. Through that lens, there are more question marks than ever before in that respect, but how could it have gone any other way? The Browns have a brand new CEO, coaching staff, and now personnel department head.

So use that skepticism and watch carefully. Is Joe Banner making the decisions? Is Michael Lombardi? Does the coach have a big influence on what the Browns need in terms of priority? These are all questions and concerns that I have. They can’t be answered by sitting back and thinking about them or by researching. There is no right answer to the questions yet.

The Browns, specifically Joe Banner and now Michael Lombardi, are on notice and on the clock. The Browns said they were going to hire the best of everything for their organization this off-season. I know there are a lot of Browns fans and critics in the media who don’t think Michael Lombardi can live up to that.

Lombardi isn’t deaf. He knows it too. We’ll see how he and the rest of the Browns’ personnel department respond with Tom Heckert’s draft record as the measuring stick. That’s the comparison we have and I know we’ll all feel free to use it.

  • mgbode

    i thought those were euphenisms

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    For what it’s worth, I think you’re right. Then again the lynch mob doesn’t really want to hear too much of that right now!

  • Garry_Owen

    Euphoniums

  • mgbode

    well, then we have an alternate problem. Lombardi spent his career as a puppet (to BillyB first, then Al Davis) and noone has wanted to hire him the past 5 seasons (including his good ole friend BillyB – who lost Pioli in that time).

  • mgbode

    to weak to carry a sousaphone?

  • Garry_Owen

    Too cool.

  • http://twitter.com/Dennymayo Denny

    Lombardi NK

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    That could be so. He may have been a puppet. We know that his draft record in CLE stunk, and that’s about it. Beyond that, his draft “say” was a little nebulous in OAK, which was EyesAbove’s point that I agree with. As for all of his boneheaded tele-evaluation comments, it’s just talking head bs (akin to Mel Kiper and all the rest who know about as much about the picks as us fans of college football). Certainly the CLE history is a worry…but there’s not a lot in between now and then to rate him (and possible progress)…which worries me in a different way.

  • mgbode

    and yet you have euphoniums. hmmm. that sounds about as honest as Banner denying talking to Lombardi back in September.

  • mgbode

    yes, that was my point. if his best defense is you have to ignore what he’s done in the past for various reasons, then we have a whole new set of problems on our hands.

    SERENITY NOW!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cb.everett.9 CB Everett

    Ha. For the record, I’m not a freaking Mike Lombardi apologist! I’m just saying that he didn’t club baby seals in Oakland’s bay, and it’s POSSIBLE that he may not single handedly bring down the Terminal Tower. Anyway, I give up. Restart the freak out! I realize it’s way more fun:)

  • BIKI024

    i know most people are down on him, but of course i’m going to give him
    the benefit of the doubt. i know that Belichick LOVES him, and Mike
    does some scouting reports for him every week. meanwhile he did do a
    great job with Hoodie in rebuilding the Browns, if they didn’t move that
    year, who knows how the season would’ve went, we were picked to be
    contenders prior to the season. and look at the staff that he built in
    the scouting dept. plus you gotta take banner’s word at this point, he
    claims that his first hand experience with talking with Mike after
    every draft, etc throughout the years gives him some credibility.

    the past is the past, now let’s see how this team works together in
    the future. got the #6 pick and $50m, lot to be excited about! march
    (free agency) can’t get here soon enough!

  • BenRM

    I’m too disappointed to create a snarky comment. Sorry.

  • Wow

    Nobody and I mean nobody wanted this guy for about 6 years now. I really hope Haslam is right.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I dunno, I think Patriots fans probably felt this way about Belichik, no?

  • Garry_Owen

    Well, how about a refill?

  • humboldt

    For Lombardi, I think burning down the facility in Berea is the more likely outcome: http://verydemotivational.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/demotivational-posters-remember.jpg

  • technivore

    Yeah who’s this “we”, paleface? I hated the Holmgren hire from day 1 and I know I’m not alone.

  • NeedsFoodBadly

    Let’s just say I haven’t seen any proof that Mike Lombardi isn’t just Al Davis in a mask. Death certificates can be faked, yo.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    if seattle had janikowski they’re playing this weekend.

    shane lechler (5th round pick) has a 47.5 average without missing a game in 13 years. that’s the best punter ever.

    you can kill lombardi for a lot of things. but those two picks aren’t the way to go.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Not really by then Big Bill had developed more but it sure has paid off. Down with the Pigeons, SB here we come!!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    That’s the pre-Browns Backers Pancake rally scheduled for tonight, LoL! I told ya it was gonna be big.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Browns fans I hate do tell you this today but you know what’s next right? Art Modell gets elected to the HOF. The NFL has something against Cleveland!

  • MrCleaveland

    Speaking of which, Great Lakes Brewery’s new seasonal is on the shelves, boys. Conway’s Irish Ale. Good stuff.

  • MrCleaveland

    You’re right about that, Harv. He seems to lose concentration now and then. Maybe he should take some A.D.D. medica . . . uh, maybe not.

  • Marc L

    I’m not panicking. I’m done. A buddy of mine analogized this to being in a relationship with a girl who turns out to be an utter and complete psycho and disaster and ruins your life.

    Then she goes and ruins the life of a couple of your friends.

    Everybody you know thinks she is a nut and life-destroyer.

    So years later she shows up and wants a new start. Because she has changed.

    Oh, HELL NO. No one with a brain would take her back. And as a fan, the only thing you can do is make the conscious decision to stop wasting your time caring about the type of organization that would take “her” back after all that.

  • nj0

    The universe has something against Cleveland.

  • Chris_FacePalmer

    Agree completely with your parenthetical. For those defending Lombardi by pointing out that Al Davis had total control of their drafts, how do you explain the rest of his drafts? Davis didn’t draft Vardell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charlie.rockman Charles Rockman

    Why do we need to speculate? Lombardi has been a talking head for the last 5+ years. As they say in the biz, roll the tape! He’s most likely provided his unsolicited opinion on pretty much every draft pick for the last 5 years. How many times was he right? How many times was he wrong?

  • SDA

    Save some for me. Caught a nasty cold/flu thing and I’m late to the party but Damn am I thirsty now

  • SDA

    I’m on the way

  • SDA

    bit of a drive fer me so Ill just tip a glass and thing of ya’all

  • SDA

    Ok ,Ok I got this. I figured it out…. Sooooo
    JH cant move the Browns because of the outrage from Art thing. The NFL wants a team in LA.

    Follow me so far?
    So the NFL tells JH hire
    1)Banner … we freak but say its ok he came from a winning organization

    2)Chud…. We freak again but out come the hope for the best rose colored glasses
    3) Lombardi …. TAKE THE TEAM AND LEAVE!!!!!!! WE CANT TAKE IT !!!!!

    evil master plan we ask the NFL to move the team

  • saggy

    no. no, please.

  • SeattleBrownsFan

    Agreed…incompetent hires is one thing, lying to people is another. they are insulting everyone’s intelligence

  • eldaveablo

    GRIDLOCK!

  • mgbode

    things Big Ben’s last date said

  • BomberDawg

    “Mike is very knowledgeable. He is also a very impetuous, VERY (said that way) ambitious man.”
    - Bill Walsh

  • BomberDawg

    The true test of Lombardi is if we get Ryan Mallet. If this DB goes for the bait and picks up Bellichick’s sloppy seconds then he is not a “changed man” and we’re in trouble.

  • Albert

    Huge NFL and Browns fan here. I’m cautiously optimistic. Granted, I’m a Bill Simmons disciple so I’ve spent probably 20+ hours listening to Lombardi on his podcasts, but the guy knows the league. He understands that you need to pass the ball downfield in order to compete. Also, Alec Scheiner (our new president), is one of the smartest dudes around and is heavily involved in advanced metrics and innovative stats. I like this new regime.

  • James

    If you look at his draft record you’ll see that only several names mentioned are any good. and they’re all in the first round

  • Antsaresocrazy

    Yeah right, janikowski was a first round pick. A KICKER IN THE FIRST ROUND!!! And he drafted a fullback in the first round. Tell me that he shouldn’t be criticized for those picks

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    you can criticize him for having six (of ten) drafts with no impact players. you can criticize him for the randy moss disaster. you can kill him for three consecutive CB misses in the first round.

    but it’s not like he took mark mosely here. you don’t go sign a free agent best PK ever. sorry guy, but open your mind.

  • D One

    Call me crazy (well, I am – - I’m a lifelong, die hard Browns fan…), but am I the only one who thinks trading our #1 this year (and possibly a future, conditional pick, if it takes that, or their choice of Weeden or McCoy…lol) to San Fran for Alex Smith (he’s ALL but gone with the kid leading them to SB…NO WAY he comes back!). If they’re not interested in either of our QBs as a throw in and want the conditional pick, make another trade with 1 of our 2 current QBs for a draft pick and then fill the rest of the holes thru free agency and draft. Mostly free agency this year, especially since draft isn’t screaming with obvious talent and we’d have given up our 1st and 2nd already this year.

    Of course we’ll feel some bumps and bruises from such bold moves, but they’re shrewd and would pay off. Besides, with all the bumps and bruises we’ve grown accustomed to…what’s a few more….
    Any feedback would be GREATLY appreciated…
    DieHardBrownsFanInFlorida