BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Give Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner credit for one thing – honesty.
Banner followed the introduction of Michael Lombardi as the team’s new VP player personnel with a stunning admission about the hire – he understands that he took a major risk.
“Listen, I understand that I’m going out on the limb myself by hiring Mike. So I didn’t do this casually,” Banner said. “I’ve spent a lot of times personally, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to him about everything that matters before I put him in front of Jimmy or Chud.
“Time will tell if it’s right or wrong, but I made (the choice) confidently and with my eyes open about the perceptions, about the realities, about my own time I spent with him, I feel comfortable with it.”
In his recent conversations with Lombardi leading up to his hiring, Banner said he is comfortable in with Lombardi’s assertion that he’s a different man – personally and professionally.
“There’s no question he’s changed,” Banner said. “First,’ he’s very introspective and I don’t know if I would have used that word 15 years ago. So I think his sense of self and his awareness of self is dramatically different than it was. Like too many of us, you don’t fully appreciate something until you lose it. I think he took for granted his time and opportunity in the NFL and then he lost it.. I think that was a wake up call.
“To be honest, I think he learned from some hard experiences he had with people he worked with. That there are different ways to go about things that contribute to your self awareness. I think he has grown a lot from that.”
Lombardi’s first go-around with the Browns did not go well but was not a factor in the final decision according to Banner.
“There’s criticisms of Mike that are warranted based on who he had been,” Banner said. “I think he feels like and my assessment of my time with him is he’s changed and I think all he’s asking is for people to give him a fair opportunity and a fresh start and then make a judgment whether they feel what he’s doing here both personally and professionally warrants them changing that opinion to the extent that they had it. That’s all anybody is asking.
“Nobody’s standing here telling anybody that those aren’t valid or they should just forget them. We’ve made a judgment, give us a fair opportunity to be proven right or wrong.”
Lombardi, who spent the last 5 years as an analyst for the NFL Network, was highly critical of the personnel moves most recently made by former general manager Tom Heckert.
He referred to the selection of Trent Richardson No. 3 as a “reach,” Brandon Weeden at No. 22 as a “panic move” and the selection of receiver Josh Gordon with a 2nd round pick in the supplemental draft as a “wasted pick.”
“We were aware of it,” Banner said. “The main thing I’m evaluating though is, how good an evaluator do I think he is? I think Jimmy was making a similar assessment. Is he capable of managing the department? Is he capable of getting the right grades on the right players? As Jimmy mentioned we wanted to make sure does he understand building a team versus just picking players? There are too many teams that end up with a bunch of really good players and they go 9-7 but they’re not championship caliber teams. We felt we could work through that.
“You say something in that forum it’s different and he’ll have to deal with that. We weren’t not going to hire who we thought was the best person because of that.”