Former Cleveland Browns scout and player personnel director Michael Lombardi was introduced as the team’s new vice president of player personnel by owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner at the Berea training facility on Friday morning.
Lombardi rejoins a team he started with as a member of the scouting staff in 1987. He was promoted to pro personnel director in 1989, and later, the director of player personnel in 1993. In 1994, the Browns had an 11-5 record and advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
“I tremendously appreciate this great opportunity,” Lombardi said in his opening remarks. “I stand before all of you very humbled and honored to be back in the Cleveland Browns organization. Having been here before, I know how passionate the fans are. I know how important football is to northeast Ohio and 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 a football team, and be part of a winning team alongside Jimmy, Joe, (coach) Rob (Chudzinski), and everyone else in the organization. It’s a great honor and a great privilege for me to come back.”
Lombardi, who comes back to Cleveland after a five-year stint with NFL Network, was in the Browns organization when it was announced that the team was moving to Baltimore to become the Ravens. He described his final day in Cleveland, in February of 1996, as “heartbreaking” for himself and his family.
“I stand in front of you different, and with more passion than ever,” Lombardi said. “When you do the media stuff, I did it, I enjoyed it, I loved it, but I missed Sundays at one o’clock. I really wanted to get back in the league. I wanted to get back with people I was comfortable with. I think anybody that meets Jimmy knows his passion and desire to win.
“Being a part of a team, being in a culture where we can create a winning atmosphere has really been important to me. I’m really looking forward to doing that. I’m really excited to do it. 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. Part of anything you want to do in life is to prove your intent and reward people for what they are. I know how important football is here, so that’s what I plan on doing.”
According to Haslam, he and Banner interviewed several talented candidates for the Browns’ open player personnel position and that Lombardi stood out because of the characteristics he displayed and the passion he brought to the table.
“When Joe and I started talking about what we wanted for our general manager, we talked about two things, one, an outstanding player evaluator,” Haslam said. “The second thing we wanted though, and I think a lot of people overlook, we wanted somebody that understood how to put together a team. We wanted to put together a consistent winner, not a team that won one year and fell back, but one that consistently contends for division, conference and Super Bowl championships. I think Mike Lombardi will help us do this.
“In the time that Mike and I have spent together, I have been very, very impressed with his smarts, passion, drive. He wants to win. He wants to win badly. With the knowledge that he has in the league, I know we got the very best possible person to be the GM. I’m just very, very pleased to have Mike as the GM.”
Banner said the Browns “were really lucky” to have many qualified candidates to choose from during their search, but it was Lombardi’s vision that separated him from the others who were interviewed.
“What differentiated Mike was, as Jimmy mentioned, the idea of building teams vs. picking players,” Banner said. “There are a lot of teams that pick players and don’t really have a clear understanding of doing that and assembling a team where people complement each other. You’re creating the right culture, attitude, work ethic and picking players that fit.”