This hiring completes the front office for Haslam as the franchise now looks to complete Head Coach Rob Chudzinski‘s coaching staff and prepare for the draft which, according to Banner, will be Lombardi’s main role along with hiring a scouting staff.
The announcement triggers mixed emotions for a Cleveland fan base desperate for a winning and stable football franchise. Lombardi, who worked for NFL Network the last five years, has been critical of the former Browns regimes’ drafts. Lombardi also previously worked for the Cleveland Browns in the late 1980’s and early ’90s as a personnel executive and produced mixed results on the field.
When asked if any of Lombardi’s comments as a media analyst factored in the decision to hire him, Haslam responded “absolutely not.”
Beyond the skepticism of Lombardi’s ability as a talent evaluator, Browns fans worry about the relationship he has with Banner. As early as August of last year, Lombardi had been rumored the favorite to win this job. Of course, the Browns refused comment. Yet throughout today’s press conference, Banner and Lombardi both reflected on past working experiences, including their two drafts with the Philadelphia Eagles that resulted in multiple Pro-Bowl selections and deep playoff runs – although no Super Bowls.
Even Haslam’s natural command of the room could not contain the overwhelming feeling that Banner had to get “his guy.” Banner even went so far to say that, in his mind, Lombardi “was always a candidate.” Haslam added that multiple references around the NFL had high regard for Lombardi and what he brings to an organization.
Asked if his five years away from being inside the NFL has affected his ability to evaluate talent and assemble a team, Lombardi insisted his last job gave him the ability to stay current.
“[NFL Network] gave me an office where I would watch games and watch coach’s tape,” Lombardi said. He went to describe his ability to stay connected with coaches and scouts through a “barter” system of information and opinions on players to gain inside knowledge. Lombardi avoided getting into much detail about the current Browns roster, though.
He did, however, give credit to Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who tweeted “Browns hired Michael Lombardi as GM. Uh oh.. Am I in trouble??” referencing Lombardi’s comments on the second-round selection in last year’s NFL Supplemental Draft .
“That’s a pretty good tweet,” Lombardi joked. “Josh Gordon…he’s got nothing to worry about.”
That may be the only good news fans have been afforded to this point as Chudzinski and the Browns have yet to hire a defensive coordinator – a man who will have a large role in the biggest personnel decisions moving forward.
There has been speculation whether the Browns defensive scheme will shift to a 3-4 alignment or continue the 4-3 alignment Dick Jauron employed over the last two years. Such a shift would likely require personnel adjustments – and time – in order to be successful. The preferred schematic approach of the new coach will determine what the team does.
Haslam indicated that hire could be made “within the next three or four days,” perhaps meaning Monday or Tuesday of next week.
Until then, anxious Browns fans can only wait.