CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Here are some highlights from former Browns pro personnel director and current NFL network analyst Michael Lombardi who joined Baskin and Phelps on 92.3 The Fan Tuesday.
Your name keeps popping up concerning the Browns. Why is that?
“I haven’t talked to anybody. I can’t control my name popping up and I really can’t. I really don’t know anything about it to be honest with you. It’s a situation where I think people say what they believe in terms of the Browns and I’ve read Joe Banner’s comments and I’ve talked to other people around the league that they’re going to evaluate the team at the end of the season. There’s still a quarter of the season to go. I think anybody who is saying that change is coming is premature and to throw my name in there really is unfair to the people in Cleveland because I’ve had no contact with anybody. I’ve been doing television. There’s nothing really for me to comment on. I just kind of dismiss it and move on. It’s just the nature of the business I guess that we go through.”
Is it flattering to have your name mentioned at least?
“I have a great passion for football. I love the game and I certainly appreciate that somebody would say that. It’s all about situations for me and it’s about where if I did go back in, it’s about the fit for me and if I decided to go back in it would come down to a lot of different circumstances. I’m at a different point in my life than I was 10 years ago. I love football and in the job I currently have I do a lot of football and I’m able to watch a lot of things and I’m able to see the league from afar and enjoy that and enjoy my son’s experience working for the Patriots and enjoy that too because I’m kind of vicariously living through him as he goes through the ups and downs of their season.”
Are the Browns making progress as a team this season?
“When you evaluate the team it’s on a whole basis and I think there’s areas where you’ve seen progress. The receiving corps has made more plays as the season goes on and there’s progress on defense. There’s certain areas of progress but you really don’t know that until the end of the season. You’re at 4-8 right now and you have to [let] the 4 games that are left [play out] and see where your team is and what direction they’re headed in. That’s ultimately the judgment of the owner Jimmy Haslam and the president Joe Banner. They’ll make those decisions in terms of where they see the vision of the team moving forward but all you can do is control the events of the day. And you see what’s going on around the National Football League, there’s a lot of teams playing with a lot of young players that have a chance to make a playoff run right now so you’ve got to weigh all of those obstacles and see where it’s going. That win in Oakland can’t be dismissed as, ‘it was Oakland.’ Yes Oakland is not very good, yes Oakland probably ran the most unsound defense in the NFL’s history but the Browns made the plays they had to make. You can’t discredit that at all.”
How do Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner not already know their plan?
“You can’t ever begin with the end in mind. I think in any business, whether you’re picking players in the draft or building an organization you can never begin with the end in mind. You have to have a sense of what are those interactions like and I think that’s the missing element. I’m not there. I don’t talk to Joe Banner, I don’t talk to Jimmy Haslam so you don’t know what the interactions are between all of the people within the organization and what those conversations are. And for the fans on the outside it’s easy to look in and say, ‘Here’s what’s going on and here’s what they should do.’ It’s an evaluation of the whole sum of the events. You build the organization the way you see it, the way your vision is it’s not necessarily the case. Jerry Jones went to Dallas and had to fire a legendary coach in Tom Landry but he built the organization in the style and the manner he wanted it. It wasn’t popular when he did it but that’s part of being an owner of a team and I think everybody accepts that. As much as Mike Holmgren probably would’ve liked to stay in Cleveland, I think he understands that once the team was sold there is going to be change. Change is a part of all our lives in the NFL. It’s happened to all of us and you just have to deal with it the best you possibly can.”
What do you say about critics of you as an executive or GM?
“You can’t control what people say about you. Often times when people say stuff about you they don’t know you and they don’t have a remote idea of who you are as a human being of what you’ve done in your career. There’s a lot of things that people will write and say that have no bearing or not even close to being true and so when you react to it you know the truth in your own heart and you know what’s true and you know what’s real and you know what you’re capable of doing and you know your own intellectual capability when it comes to the NFL – you just have to ignore it. If you’re going to handle praise you better handle criticism and you also better understand that certain people are vindictive. Certain people have an agenda towards you. You can’t change that. You can’t change that narrow minded thinking and I think you just have to move forward and deal with it. And you’ve made mistakes and if you ever talk to anyone in personnel that doesn’t admit that they’ve made mistakes they’re not a very good personnel man because it’s through our mistakes that we grow. Anybody who was in Cleveland early in the career there going from Ernie Accorsi to Bill Belechick, any of the people that were there, we all made mistakes and we’ve all become different people. If we could live life backwards we’d have a better life and it’s through those mistakes that we grow. I think a lot of the success that people that were in Cleveland have had has come from the growing pains we all went through.”