CANTON -- Cleveland Browns general manager Michael Lombardi talked about building the team for sustained success when he addressed the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club at Tozzi’s on 12th restaurant Monday.
“We are going to follow a blueprint for success,” Lombardi told the audience. “We’re going to try and be as aggressive as we can in terms of how we approach every decision. We’re also going to be thinking one or two years ahead, because you can’t operate in the NFL today if you just focus on the next game, the next practice. We don’t really want to end up 5-11, 11-5 and then, 5-11.
“When you look at the organization and the journey ahead of us, you have to find a way to sustain success. We’ve got to find a mission statement that is not just predicated on one game, one day, one season. It’s about a plan, a blueprint that can sustain success. It starts with our owner, Jimmy Haslam, who really is committed to bringing great football back to Cleveland.”
Lombardi has been in the NFL for 22 years, and during that time he has been a part of 10 playoff teams, seven division championships, five appearances in conference championship games, and two Super Bowls with one world title.
Lombardi said getting everyone going in the same direction is key to developing a philosophy in the front office and coaching staff.
“In the successful times in my career, when people share the same vision, when people understand that, ‘This is the way to win; this is how you’re going to win,’ it’s easy to execute the plan,” Lombardi said. “We’re going to build an organization that’s unified in what we’re trying to accomplish. Our challenge is to keep building and get a foundation in place.”
MUST ‘OUTWORK PEOPLE’
In working toward turning the Browns into a winning team, Lombardi feels that everyone in the organization has to “outwork people.”
“For us to beat Pittsburgh, for us to beat Cincinnati, for us to beat Baltimore, we’ve got to build a team that can compete with them, a mentally tough team that can win in the fourth quarter, that has the ability, the strength and the character to fight adversity,” Lombardi said. “All of those things are what is on the mind of (chief executive officer) Joe Banner. All those things are on the mind of Michael Lombardi, (coach) Rob Chudzinski, and everybody in the organization. That’s the mission statement.
“What really is important is to win in the NFL. There’s got to be that motivating factor. There’s got to be that drive because you all want it. I’ve seen it before. Everybody wants it. The Browns need to be relevant. We need to be that team. We need to have (appearances on) Monday Night Football. We need to have people come watch us play, and it’s not going to happen by a day, one practice. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a plan.”
When talking about the difference between building a team and picking players, Lombardi advised those in attendance to pay attention to when players come out of the locker room for pre-game warm-ups.
“If the players look a lot alike, that team has a plan,” Lombardi said. “They understand what they want. If the team has a bunch of fat guys and skinny guys and tall guys and short guys, they’re probably just picking players, and there’s a difference between picking players and building a team. You’ve got to be able to build a team that can win against the great quarterbacks in the National Football League.”
‘GREAT TO BE BACK’
When Lombardi joined the Browns’ front office on Jan. 18, he had returned to the team he worked win from 1987-1995. In that time he served as a scout and in various other positions in the player personnel department.
Coming back to Cleveland was an opportunity Lombardi embraced.
“It’s great to be back here, and it’s great to be a Brown,” Lombardi said. “I’ve always loved being in Cleveland. I’ve always loved being a part of the Browns and the fabric of this region that goes with it.
“As a kid growing up in New Jersey with the last name, Lombardi, I was inspired to get into football by a guy that looked like a lot of people in my family, (legendary coach Vince Lombardi). I thought if I could follow in his footsteps, I would be somewhat of a success. It’s an honor to be in Cleveland (and) the birthplace of football in Canton.”