The Browns hiring of Michael Lombardi as Vice President, Player Personnel has certainly caused some polarizing opinions among fans of the football team, and national football pundits.
The local fans and media remember Lombardi’s less than sterling track record in the draft while a member of the Browns’ front office during the time Bill Belichick was the head coach of the team. You hear those people bringing up players like Tommy Vardell and Craig Powell as first round busts taken by Lombardi.
The national people are effusive in their praise of the man who most recently was working for the NFL Network. Even then, Lombardi came out as critical of the Browns use of a supplemental second round pick for WR Josh Gordon last summer. Gordon looks to have the potential to be a #1 wide out for the Browns.
One respected broadcaster, CBS’ Jim Nantz, even blasted a local writer for having a “vendetta” against Lombardi, and said Lombardi was one of the brightest football minds around. Apparently, Nantz is as biased for the Browns new vice president as the writer is against him.
Several other national writers have chimed in saying that Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner hit a home run with their latest hire.
It tells us that Lombardi has a lot of friends among the national media. However, it is a lot different talking about the game than it is to build a winning football team.
Ask some of the guys who have worked at the network level who returned to the real game. Bobby Valentine comes to mind as someone who was a colossal flop.
Much like a head coach who is generally mono-syllabic in his press conferences and is dour with the media, Lombardi will not get a benefit of the doubt here. Neither will Banner, another guy who appears to have an attitude of “I’m smarter than you, and I really shouldn’t have to explain myself to you peons”.
That means the Browns better win right away, because if they end the 2013 season with a 6-10 record, their already frustrated fan base will be antagonized.
Most people, including Haslam and Banner, feel this football team is on the cusp of playoff contention, mostly because of the efforts of former GM Tom Heckert. Had a better and more flexible head coach than Pat Shurmur been in charge, the Browns could have went 7-9 or 8-8 this season, meaning improvement would mean a winning record next season.
Meanwhile, the new head coach, Rob Chudzinski has done a great job in hiring his coordinators for the upcoming season, finalizing Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, and hiring former Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Ray Horton for the same position with Cleveland.
Horton was interviewed for the head coaching job here, and his defense has improved each of the last two seasons even though the Cardinals have struggled in those seasons.
Horton’s comment of coaching men, not systems is perfect for the Browns. It means he will look at the personnel already here and put them into a position to succeed. After the amount of draft picks spent on defensive linemen under the previous regime, and the promise showed by those picks, that is the perfect attitude to have, because there is talent already in place.
The moves made by Haslam and Banner since the season ended have certainly put pressure on the organization to win right away.
Haslam has a dynamic personality and had the fans very excited about the new front office of the Browns. However, hiring Banner and Lombardi have placed a wet blanket on that promise.
Winning right away will make everyone forget about personalities.