Lombardi is fond of those years and said he has changed in the time since.
"When we left in '96 after the team moved it was heartbreaking," he said. "I think we've all grown from those days. I know I have, and I think our careers have all grown. I stand in front of you different professionally and personally and with more passion than ever."
Banner has maintained a close relationship with Lombardi since their time together in Philadelphia. As the Browns pointed out in their press release, Lombardi played an integral role in the 1998 draft and a trade for linebacker Hugh Douglas, laying the foundation for the Eagles, who made four consecutive trips to the NFC Championship and one Super Bowl.
Banner feels his friend has grown.
"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.
"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. He has grown a lot from that."
Banner dismissed any notion he would have final authority on personnel decisions, reiterating it will be a collective effort.
"We're going to have a group that's now rounded out that's going to collaborate on these decisions and we're going to try to draft a consensus," he said. "We probably won't do things about which we don't have consensus."
For Lombardi, there was no hesitation in coming back to Cleveland, where fans wait for the Browns to make their first Super Bowl visit. This is where his sons, Matt, and Mick, a scouting assistant for the Patriots, were born and where he'll begin his own rebirth.
Lombardi has lot to prove.
"I know the expectations and the reactions as I walk in here, but I take them as a positive," he said. "I've never shied away from a challenge. I'm excited for it and I think I'm ready to do it because I really want to do it. I think part of anything you want to do in life is to prove your intent and also to reward people for what they are. That's what I plan on doing."
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