There’s no getting around the fact that Michael Lombardi was a controversial hire for the Cleveland Browns. Lombardi’s previous history in Cleveland as well as his presumed track record – including a very long stint off of any team payrolls – is plenty of reason to give the fan-base and the Cleveland media pause at minimum. Even those who support the Cleveland Browns’ hire of Michael Lombardi have to admit that he has a lot to prove. With all that in mind, I couldn’t help but support the Browns’ decision to have Lombardi lay low for a while.
I said from the first moment that Lombardi appeared to be absent that it might make a lot of sense with so much tape out there of Lombardi commenting on teams, players, future draft picks and everything else that a media talking head might find himself (or herself) commenting on.
And boy did Lombardi comment. Even before he could cash his first check from Haslam enterprises in Berea, he found himself referencing comments he’d made about the most important battery in the Cleveland Browns offense of Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon. The media was right to ask him those questions and now the Browns are right to let Lombardi do his work as GM and let Joe Banner handle the spokesperson duties while the expiration dates on his commentary approach and eventually pass.
None of this means that the Browns were right to hire Lombardi, of course. See previous comments about Lombardi having a whole lot to prove. Even more than that, he has a reputation – rightly or wrongly earned – to overcome. There’s little chance he could have found any way to overcome it as a distraction to the team in and around every press conference involving player personnel this off-season. Now Joe Banner has admitted it in a pretty frank comment to Mary Kay Cabot.
“Yes, he got criticized, but I don’t think anybody would deny that whether people are for him or against him, he’s a lightning rod at the moment,” Banner said. “It attracts a lot of attention and it gets a lot of strong reaction and I think it’s better for us right now and better for him to keep things calm, lowkey, focus on his work and then kind of more gradually let that situation take care of itself in terms of his availability to you all.”
So blame the Browns for hiring a “lightning rod” if you want. That’s fair game for criticism and the Browns know it. But they hired a guy they apparently wanted and they’re at least living in reality with regard to what is required to try to give it the best possible chance to be successful.
Whether or not Lombardi works out as the head personnel man for the Browns, it seems that this is the best track for the Browns to take with Michael Lombardi right now. Lombardi and the Browns need to be successful this off-season and any extra distraction the Browns can avoid, the better.