Since the start of his NFL career nearly 30 years ago, Michael Lombardi, the Cleveland Browns’ new vice president of player personnel, has earned the respect of coaches and former players around the league.
Following Lombardi’s introduction to the Browns’ front office on Friday, several coaches around the NFL talked about his work ethic and desire to succeed.
“The foundation of our program in New England had its roots in Cleveland,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “Mike was instrumental in setting up the personnel structure of that program, which is the basis for our current system. Mike is one of the brightest football minds I have ever worked with. He has a strong understanding of every aspect of the game and the process of putting a team together. Mike’s strong work ethic combined with his extensive experience in the NFL will give the Cleveland Browns an exceptional man for this position.”
Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano added, “He is a football man through-and-through. He knows the game and personnel. I know he is back doing what he loves to do and will be a tremendous asset to the Browns organization. They got a good man. I am excited for Mike and his family and wish him well as he embarks on this new journey.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz was also on the Browns’ scouting staff during Lombardi’s first tenure with the team.
“Michael is one of the hardest working people I've ever met in the NFL,” Schwartz said. “He has an encyclopedia-type knowledge of NFL and college personnel and can speak on any player in the league without looking at notes. I first worked with Michael in Cleveland from 1993-95. Along with Coach Belichick, Michael developed a system of evaluating and developing players that is still used by a number of teams. Michael has also shown a commitment in continuing to develop and improve that system over the years. I have confidence that Michael will be an important part of the management team that will make the Browns a winner.”
Once he finished his first tenure with the Browns in February of 1996, Lombardi joined the Philadelphia Eagles’ personnel department. During that time, the Eagles drafted four players who earned Pro Bowl status.
Lombardi then moved on to the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders won three AFC West Division championships (2000-02), and appeared in Super Bowl XXXVII during Lombardi’s nine seasons in Oakland.
“Going back to when we were together in Oakland, there was a handful of people in that building that I thought were really ultimately responsible for our success,” said former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon. “We won AFC West titles, went to AFC Championship games and to the Super Bowl, and one of those guys was Mike Lombardi. He was a guy that I really relied on, really leaned on.
“He was great at advanced scouting and giving me a breakdown of the upcoming opponent, what the issues were, what the concerns, what our strengths would be against some of their weaknesses and things like that. He’s always been a football guy. Even when Mike left the business and started doing television, he never really got away from evaluating talent. He was always watching tape, he was always studying film and he was always studying teams.”
Lombardi’s former NFL Network co-worker, Mike Mayock, says that what stood out about his colleague the most was “his intelligence.”
“Regardless of the endeavor he has been involved with, he has always shown a high level of intelligence and intuitiveness about his project,” Mayock said. “Secondly, I think there is a process with Mike -- he defines it and then, he follows through on it. I think that is really important in the overall evaluation of rookies and pros at whatever level in football.
“At his core I think he is a true evaluator. That is what that position demands more than anything -- somebody that can evaluate at the college level, at the pro level, at the free-agent level and integrate all of those facets into one comprehensive program. I think Mike Lombardi can do all of that.”