Lombardi said some of his growth came from frequent talks with Belichick. They have dissected all the Browns' drafts.
“We talk quite a bit about this place and this building,” said Lombardi, whose son Mick is a Patriots scouting assistant.
Lombardi's recent stint at the NFL Network also helped him because of his access to the library of tape at NFL Films and the interviews he did with coaches. With those resources, he reassessed how to scout and how to do things over.
“I used to have a sign at my office at the Oakland Raiders that said, ‘If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less,' ” Lombardi said, quoting retired U.S. Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki, the first Asian-American to become a four-star general.
As insistent as Lombardi was that he's learned from the past, the Browns were still in full damage-control mode.
In his eagerness to get the choice embraced, Haslam joined Banner on that somewhat shaky limb. Haslam said he talked to several of the “most respected” people “at the very top of the NFL business” in their search for a player personnel director.
“Without exception every one of them said, ‘If you can get Mike Lombardi to be your general manager you should hire him immediately,' ” Haslam said.
That led some to wonder if those were executives from the AFC North.
That wasn't the only spin. The Browns announced the hiring of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator before the 6 o'clock news. They distributed a sheet of quotes about Lombardi more quickly than they did for Chudzinski, then came out with a second. Seated along the wall were Lombardi's wife, Millie, celebrating her birthday, and son Matthew, a senior at the University of Delaware, whose presence might have toned down some of the questions.
The Browns invited a few writers upstairs to a conference room to talk to Lombardi, who was kind to his detractors.
“I've done your job, I've been in the media, I understand criticism,” Lombardi said. “I just ask you we start clear, and if I make mistakes or you think I'm making mistakes, I have no problem with it. I'd like it not to be as personal as perhaps sometimes it is, but I can't control what you write. I'm just asking for a fair and honest chance to move forward.”
Fair and honest is a reasonable request. But until I see him in action, I can't be convinced of Lombardi's transformation.
Distributed by MCT Information Services