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Haslam, Banner, Lombardi transcript - 1/18

Posted Jan 18, 2013

The transcript of Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner's Friday press conference with Michael Lombardi.

Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and Vice President - Player Personnel Michael Lombardi Press Conference 1-18-13

Jimmy Haslam

(Opening statement)- “Good Morning. Before we introduce Mike officially, we were here together a week ago and introduced Rob (Chudzinski) at that time. I think we talked about how there were a lot of reasons we were excited about Rob. Certainly, one of them was his ability to put together not just a good, but a great staff. I think yesterday’s announcement about Norv Turner and some of the assistants that are either going to be staying or joining us are certainly proving those out. I think Rob is well on the way to completing his staff. I think he’ll name an outstanding defensive coordinator here in the next few days and we certainly look forward to sharing that news. As excited as we were about Rob a week ago, we remain that excited, in fact more excited a week later after we’ve had a chance to watch him work and see the staff that he’s put together. Now, we said at the outset, I think it was on December 31, Joe (Banner) and I said that we were going to hire a coach first and then hire a general manager/player personnel person second. Joe and I once again had the opportunity to talk to several talented people that could have filled that role. Matter of fact, we were very, very impressed with the type of individuals that were interested in filling that position with the Cleveland Browns. There was one individual, however, that I think stood out in a very strong field as being one, extremely smart, two, having really phenomenal passion, three, a great work drive and I think equally or more importantly to those three characteristics and they’re all obviously very important, tremendous knowledge of football. When Joe and I started talking about what we wanted for a (Vice President – Player Personnel) we talked about two things. One, an outstanding player evaluator and I think that’s probably a given in the (Vice President – Player Personnel) role. The second thing we wanted and I think something that a lot of people candidly overlook, is we wanted somebody that understood how to put together a team. We’ve talked consistently around here since the first day on August 3, that we wanted to put together a consistent winner, not a team that won one year and fell back, that consistently contended for division, conference and Super Bowl championships. I think Mike Lombardi will help us do this. Over the past really particular week, but really two weeks as we started to focus on this, I had the opportunity to talk to several people in the business, you all are going to want to know who they are, but I’m not going to name them, who I respect. These are people at the very top of the NFL business, the most respected people in the business and without exception every one of them said this, ‘If you can get Mike Lombardi to be your general manager you should hire him immediately.’ Joe has known Mike a lot longer than I have and I’m going to let Joe say a few words in a second, but in the time that Mike and I have spent together, I have been very, very impressed. I will repeat what I said earlier, smarts, passion, drive, he wants to win, he wants to win badly, but also with the knowledge he has of the league, the NFL, players, college players, etcetera. I know we got the very best possible person to be (Vice President – Player Personnel). I think we’ve now completed the team at the top, if you will. Rob’s got to fill in some assistants and we’re just very, very pleased to have Mike as our (Vice President – Player Personnel). Before Joe says a few words though, I do want to introduce Mike’s by far better half who I met for the first time today, Millie. It’s Millie’s birthday today. I did not ask her what birthday it was, but its Millie’s birthday today. On Millie’s right is one of Mike’s two sons, Matt who is a senior at Delaware and I think wants to get into the football business when he finishes school so it’s great to have both of you. Matt was actually born in Cleveland and Millie, of course, was here with Mike when Mike was here before. I’m going to let Joe make a few remarks and then we’ll introduce Mike.”

Joe Banner

“Just adding on to what Jimmy said, we were really lucky and frankly, pleasantly surprised with the quality of people that we were able to meet over the last week or ten days. It was a very difficult decision. A lot of what differentiated Mike, as Jimmy mentioned, the idea of building teams versus picking players. There are a lot of teams in the league that pick players and don’t really have a clear understanding of the difference between doing that and assembling a team where people complement each other. You’re creating the right culture, attitude, work ethic, picking players that fit your particular program as opposed to just picking good players that end up making personnel people look good necessarily and not necessarily making the team any better. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mike. I’ve stayed in touch with and had a relationship with Mike since we worked together. I know the effectiveness when we were together as well as the years of talking before and after drafts, what players we liked and didn’t like. I feel like I have firsthand knowledge on his ability to evaluate players, which is the most important thing he’s going to do, as I could possibly have on anybody we were going to hire. I also witnessed Mike hire scouts and young scouts and see them develop. I think you’re all familiar with the scouting staff that was here when he was here in Cleveland and what many of those people have gone on to so I think he has a good eye for scouts as well as having a good eye for talent. That’s what drove the decision. He has a tremendous passion to come back here to Cleveland, to be a part of this organization and help us turn it around. As you’ve heard those are the kind of qualities we’re looking for. So I introduce with pleasure and confidence our new Vice President of Player Personnel, Mike Lombardi.”

Michael Lombardi

“Thank you Joe, thank you Jimmy. I tremendously appreciate this great opportunity and I want to thank my wife, Millie and Matthew for coming today. I stand before all of you very humble and honored to be back in the Cleveland Browns organization. I think I can speak with authority, having been here before I know how passionate the fans are. I know how important football is to northeast Ohio. I am really excited to show that I can do the job effectively, that I will be the person that can help add to the team, can help build the football team and be part of a winning team alongside of Jimmy, Joe, Rob and everyone else in the organization. It’s a great honor and a great privilege for me to come back. When we left in ’96 after the team moved it was as heartbreaking for me as it was for all of you in this room and I think we’ve all grown from those days. I know I have and I think our careers have all grown. I think I stand in front of you different in terms of professionally and personally and with more passion than ever. When you do the media stuff and I know your job well, I did it and I enjoyed it. I loved it, but I missed Sunday’s at one o’clock and I really wanted to get back in the league. I really wanted to get back with people that I felt very comfortable with and that I knew. I was with Joe in Philadelphia and had a great working relationship with him. I think anybody that meets Jimmy knows his passion and his desire to win is important. I think being a part of a team, being in a culture where we can create a winning atmosphere has really been important to me and I’m really looking forward to doing that. I think this gives me the opportunity to do that and as we move forward, I think it will be a great situation and I’m really excited to do it. So without further ado, I appreciate it, I look forward to it, I know the expectations and I know the reactions as I walk in here, but I take them as a positive. 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 and I know how important football is here. That’s what I plan on doing.”

Michael Lombardi

(On how being on the outside looking in over the past five years has changed or sharpened his eye as a talent evaluator)- “I think the great thing about NFL Network - I’m really appreciative to them I didn’t thank them enough - is they afforded me an office at NFL Films where I had the ability to watch football games and watch coaches tape. I was able to stay in tune to the game. Part of that too is to be able to have conversations with coaches all over the league about different teams, about their team. I was viewed as the information man of NFL Network, but for me to get information I felt like I had to give information on how I view their team and then they might give me some information on their team. It was kind of a bartering system and that allowed me to do it and I think it gives you a perspective to look back. Anytime you can take a step back from the game, look at it, adjust it and modify it, the NFL is about change every three years and you have to keep up with that change. It kind of helped me how you scout, how you look at things, how you want to do things over. Again, you’re constantly changing and I used to have a sign at my office at the Oakland Raiders that said, ‘If you don’t like change your going to like irrelevance even less,’ by Eric Shinseki of the United States Army. Now, I had that up there for a lot of reasons, but I think change was really important.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if there is a challenge coming in after being critical of some of the Browns’ draft picks such as Josh Gordon or Brandon Weeden)- “I think you do different things in the media. Certainly, you need to get involved in terms of their personalities here. I don’t know Josh Gordon or Brandon Weeden, in terms of watching them play from the outside, so it’s a different evaluation from a media perspective from inside the house. It’s going to be different that way.”

Michael Lombardi

(On his opinion of Brandon Weeden)- “I think it’s going to take some time to study him. I’ve got to go back through and watch practice tapes. I think when you live in the building I think you have a better understanding of the player moving forward. It’s going to take some time for me to really formulate my final opinions of him.”

Michael Lombardi

(On being critical of Weeden during of radio interviews)- “I think when you do media you certainly have commentary of games, but I think for my part it’s a different set of circumstances. I’m looking more towards as an organization building a team and how it relates to that.”

Michael Lombardi

(On how he expects to be accepted by the Cleveland fans)- “I know Cleveland Brown fans are passionate, their excited about football and they want to win and I think it’s my job to prove them the reaction, positively or negatively, is about winning. I think we as a collective group have to win and I’ve got to do my job absolutely the best I can possibly do it and focus on that mostly.”

Michael Lombardi

(On his impression of the roster as a whole)- “I think it’s going to take me some time. I’ve got to sit there and go through some practices and watch practice and live the life. I think one of the things in the media you don’t do is live the life of the team. I think I’ve got to go back and live the life of a team and watch practice and watch the game and how it all relates.”

Joe Banner

(On when they first discussed Lombardi as a possibility and when did it all come together)- “I think we kind of loosely joked with each other about possibly working together some day over the years that we were friends. Or occasionally we both agree about a player that everybody else didn’t like that turned out to be good so we patted ourselves on the back and told each other how brilliant we were and thought we should work together someday. We brought Mike in last week for the first time. We’ve had him here twice. Had a chance for Jimmy to spend some time with him and for Chud (Chudzinski) to spend some time with him to get to know him. I think in my mind he was always a candidate, but I think within the last week when the other people here had a chance to meet him as well as meet the other potential candidates that it became very, very real.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if he sat in on any of the Browns coaching interviews)- “No, I was working for NFL Network. I had no relationship with the Browns up until last week when I sat down with Jimmy and Joe.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he was concerned with Lombardi’s past history here and writers not writing nice things about him)- “We didn’t worry about that at all. I’ll be honest. I think I’ve said on numerous occasions every decision we make is not going to be popular. I have the upmost confidence that Mike is going to help us put together a winning team. If he does that, that’s all that matters. That did not play into our decision at all. We spent a long time with Mike two or three days ago. Rob got to spend time with him and the two of us came away convinced, Joe had spent time with Mike before, obviously, that this was the right guy.”

Joe Banner

(On who will have the final authority over all the major roster questions)- “We didn’t anticipate that question (joking). Our answer is still the same. 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 drive to consensus. I think we probably won’t do things which we don’t have consensus so we really won’t ever get into a, ‘Who has final say?’ My experience is that when you have a group of people that are spending a lot of time studying something, they’re smart and they’re in an environment where it’s free to state your opinion or disagree, that when everybody can get to the same consensus your chances of being right are extremely high so that’s what we’re going to try to get to.”

Joe Banner

“I do want to spend a moment, just because I think it’s important while we have this chance to elaborate a little bit on Mike’s qualifications, because it seems like that’s what you’re all asking about a little bit and we’re kind of on the edge of it. Mike has worked here in Cleveland, obviously. You can dissect things because there are always some things that you get right and wrong, but the team clearly improved during the time that Mike was here. I was then with Mike in Philadelphia. He was an integral part of two drafts and a series of free agent signings. I think the second draft, if you broke it down, was one of the best drafts you’ve seen anybody have. A large number of Pro Bowl players playing some of the most important positions. A left tackle, two starting defensive ends, a Pro Bowl middle linebacker that were a part of what would end up becoming four championship appearance teams. He then went on to Oakland, a team that had been struggling and had a series of playoff appearances including a couple of conference games and a Super Bowl appearance. Where Mike has been prior to that in San Francisco where he had a lesser role, but was still in an organization that was successful and won. And as I’ve said, I’ve been talking to him for years and gone into drafts and have a pretty good sense of who he liked and who he didn’t like, where his opinion was the same as the conventional wisdom and where he was stepping out with a different opinion. I can just tell you, I’ve spoken with and spent a lot of time with some excellent talent evaluators in this league and there’s no question when it comes to that, he’s near or at the top of the quality of talent evaluators that exist in this league.”

Joe Banner

(On if he can be more specific on who will have final say over the roster than just saying it will be collaborative)- “I would be if there was a different answer. If that’s the answer, I can’t really change it.”

Joe Banner

(On why Lombardi left Philadelphia if he was pleased with him)- “I think there was a change of administration in the leadership of the team, and a desire more out of people you were comfortable with and the culture that you wanted to bring in some people at that time. I didn’t view it as a negative or a positive about Mike as much as a desire to put together a particular team that was familiar with the people that were there and going to be running the football operation.”

Joe Banner

(On who will break the tie on roster decisions)- “Listen, the reality is we probably won’t be doing something that there’s that much divided opinion on. If we’re sitting in the first round of the draft and there are four decision makers in the room and two are for and two are against the pick, it’s probably a risk to pick that person. We’ve got two smart people that have spent a lot of time studying and they think it’s a mistake, we’re probably not going to do it. In the instances that you’re talking about, we’ll probably say, ‘Look, let’s go to this group of players about which we all feel confident are going to be good players.’ Why take the risk on somebody that two people think is good and two people don’t?”

Joe Banner

(On if the four decision makers will be him, Haslam, Lombardi and Chudzinski)- “Yes, and depending upon where we’re at or if it’s a free agent issue, I suspect the Director of Pro Personnel would be in the room as well. If it’s a college decision, the college director and obviously the coaches and the other scouts will participate in getting us to that final meeting, but yes.”

Michael Lombardi

(On what he meant by saying he’s changed professionally and personally since he was last with the Browns)- “I think Tony (Grossi), anytime you grow older you change. We change the way we scout, we change the way we believe things. Football teams change. I think change is good. If I was the same guy that was here 20 years ago, I would say that Jimmy and Joe shouldn’t have hired me, but you have to change and you have to grow intellectually, personally. I think it’s important. It’s in that change that you separate yourself and keep yourself with pace. I think it’s really important. I view change as good.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if he imagined he would be back in Cleveland when he left)- “No, but my heart was broken when I left, I’ll tell you. It was very difficult. It was surreal coming in this building last time. My wife and I had two children here, a lot of history here. No, I never did because you just never know the circumstances.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On the first time he met Lombardi)- “I met Mike through some mutual friends several months ago, but in terms of having a serious conversation with Mike about this job, it was in the last week or 10 days.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he was aware of the national perception that Lombardi has been the guy all along)- “Sure, I read the paper every day just like you do. We were aware it was out there. I think I’ve learned in the short time in this job it doesn’t do any good to dispel it. What Joe and I said, and what I said in here on August 3, and what we said all during the season is we were going to evaluate the coaching staff, the general manager, etcetera. We did that and made a decision on December 30, announced it on December 31, immediately began looking for a head coach. While we were looking for a head coach and interviewing, we were doing background work on the (player personnel) job, Mike’s name kept floating to the top. As you all know, you’ve been around this a long time, a lot of this is calling people you know in the industry. Joe of course knows everybody in the business. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. When we were talking about head coaches, we would start asking about general managers. As I said in my introductory remarks, Mike’s name kept coming to the top over and over. If you can get him, you ought to get him and get him right now.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if he was actively trying to get back into the league the last five years)- “I’ve always thought as you grow older, what the best situation would be for me. I had an opportunity to talk to the 49ers a couple years ago because of my relationship with Jim Harbaugh and that didn’t work out. I always wanted to work with Joe and Jimmy. It was about fit and about set for me mostly.”

Michael Lombardi

(On what has changed in the league from a personnel standpoint since he was last in it)- “There’s quite a long answer there. The league, obviously even five years ago, we are a throwing league but it’s becoming even more so. The positions, the way you grade a draft board has to dramatically change because of the positions. There are so many more positions that you are going to have to grade. It’s a broader spectrum, and I think the requirements of the league, remember 10 years ago there were a lot of teams still running option football, pure option, now we’re shotgun option. The game has changed dramatically.”

Michael Lombardi

(On how his relationship with Banner grew after Philadelphia)- “We’ve always had a great relationship from conversations. We worked hard together. I worked for Joe in Philadelphia. I enjoyed my time there. It’s just like anything in this business, when you’re passionate about football, you tend to gravitate to the people that are passionate about football. It’s funny, football friends are football friends, because you talk football most of the time. I think Joe and I don’t talk about the stock market very much, but we talk about football all the time.”

Michael Lombardi

(On Joe Banner)- “I respect Joe’s opinion on everything. Joe has a great knowledge on what’s going on in the world, the league and football. I’ve often viewed anybody that puts the time and effort into it, and has an opinion, I think it’s great. Joe has been dead on on anything I’ve ever talked about. We sat in a room together and ran a draft together and it worked.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he’s concerned with bringing in Lombardi after his negative comments about Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon)- “No, not at all. Zero.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On if he’s concerned that Lombardi has been out of the league the last few years)- “No, not at all. The first time I had the opportunity to talk to Mike, he’s extremely current on what’s going on in the NFL, extremely current. Let me just say one thing is, I personally like people who love their job and love what they do, and this guy loves the NFL and football. That passion and that work ethic and that drive, I didn’t even have to ask Mike when I was talking to Millie and Matt and Mike before we came downstairs, ‘Are you going back home?’ I knew he was here for the duration. I heard him say to Neal (Gulkis), ‘Listen, I’ll do interviews for a while today, but then I’ve got to go to work.’ That’s the kind of mentality we want. It’s just like when Rob came here. Rob came here, he hasn’t gone back to Charlotte. I suspect he’s probably not. He’s come to work. That’s the kind of mentality and culture we want to create here. Mike fits right into that culture. He’s passionate. He works hard. He wants to win. That’s the kind of people we want to attract.”

Michael Lombardi

(On how he can assure fans it will be different than when he was here before with Bill Belichick)- “I think what we said earlier about building a team, when you look at our team in ‘94, I think we had a lot of good players on it. We made mistakes in the draft, there’s no mistake about that. It’s funny, when you scout, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’re going to make them again. We did that. Trust me, we’ve all looked at the draft of Cleveland. Belichick and I sit together, we look at it and we talk about it, but we learn from it. We put together a team in ‘94 that won 11 games and went to the divisional round. It was a learning experience.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if there was a flawed system when he was here last)- “Remember now, part of that we were going from uncapped to no cap, from plan B to a cap. There were a lot of different changes. It was a different era, also how we value players and how we put emphasis on certain positions too.”

Michael Lombardi

(On his evaluation of the roster when taking this opportunity)- “Look, I took this opportunity to work with Jimmy and to work with Joe and to be a part of this organization that I love. Now, I now have to really go and evaluate the players. It’s going to take me some time to really do it in terms of a core evaluation like a scout, not as a TV guy, no disrespect, because I was one, I was with you too.”

Michael Lombardi

(On being critical of certain players on Browns roster in the past)- “I think my relationship with them will be, as I move forward, and I think certainly they’ll know through the coaches. I think we’ll move forward with that.”

Michael Lombardi

(On Josh Gordon tweeting ‘Uh-oh…Am I in trouble?’ when the news broke of Lombardi’s hire)- “That’s a really good tweet right there (joking). I’ll take that one. Josh Gordon, trust me, he has nothing to worry about. In fact, he can have my twitter account if he’d like because I’m about to close that thing down.”

Michael Lombardi

(On being critical of Weeden quite a bit)- “I think Jeff (Schudel), you have to go back and really watch practices and really study, because there are things that happen in a game that you are not a part of. I think that’s what I really need to do. I say that sincerely to you.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if he feels comfortable with the scouting staff here or if he will evaluate that as he goes)- “I think the first rule in scouting is to never begin with the end in mind, so I’m taking this job without beginning with the end in mind about everybody, just like I’m sure they are with me. Everybody’s going to be evaluated on a daily basis and we’re going to do the best we can to work together and not have any pre-determined looks.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if he had a relationship with Chudzinski before last week)- “No. Actually we were at a wedding together, weren’t we Chud? We didn’t dance though (joking).”

Michael Lombardi

(On his impressions of Chudzinski)- “When you’re in this league, you watch tape of other guys and you sit there, and I saw Cam Newton play as well as he did for Chud doing what he did. You say, ‘Wow, that’s an impressive thing.’ Not having a relationship always makes it difficult. Tapes are sometimes your relationships with coaches and his tape was good.”

Michael Lombardi

(On if he facilitated Norv Turner being a candidate here)- “I wasn’t involved in the coaching search, and I haven’t facilitated Norv being here. I think Norv’s relationship goes beyond my relationship. He and Chud were part of a coaching staff together.”

Michael Lombardi

(On how ready he is to jump in and be ready for the draft)- “I’m really ready Mary Kay (Cabot). I’ve got a long way to go, I’ve got a long learning curve, but I’m ready to work. I’ve been resting for five years, I’m ready to go. I had enough make-up on, I’m ready to go.”

Michael Lombardi

(On seeing him a couple years ago and him itching to get back into the league)- “When I wake up in the morning, when I was doing television, and I love NFL Network, but I see myself as a football guy. I don’t mean this in any disrespect to media because I have a great appreciation, but I’ve always wanted to be a part of a team building concept. That always was important to me.”

Joe Banner

(On if winning this year will prove these decisions have been the right ones)- “It started with winning being the only thing that mattered anyway. I don’t want to put a ‘this year’ on it, because as we’ve said we want to build this the right way so it’s sustainable. The only reason any of us are doing this is for the thrill of victory. There needs to be no more motivation, or any criticism or skepticism doesn’t change the drive to do that as quickly as we can.”

Jimmy Haslam

(On his reaction to Chip Kelly going to Philadelphia)- “I didn’t really have one. I’m not worried about any other situation. We’ve got a lot of work to do here. We’ve won 13 or 14 games in the last three years. I can assure you, Joe and I and Mike and Rob’s total focus is on making this football team better. We’ve got a lot of work to do. As the team is starting to gel and we’re starting to get everybody together, we had a brief meeting this morning. We’re all very excited. We’re focused on the Cleveland Browns.”

Joe Banner

(On addressing the news that said he criticized Philadelphia’s Howie Roseman)- “It’s just unfortunate and untrue. Beyond that, like Jimmy just said, we’ve got a big job to do here. It’s taking every minute of every day and every piece of energy I have and that’s what I’m focused on.”

Michael Lombardi

(On saying previously that he would only come back to the NFL if it’s the perfect situation and why this is the perfect situation)- “Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, Rob Chudzinski and this town. Really, I have great passion for Cleveland. Every time I hear (Bruce) Springsteen play ‘Youngstown’, it always makes me workout better. This is it. Look, there are very few places you want to do it, and when you find those you do it, and I did.”