Cleveland Off-Season 2013: Mike Lombardi Hired as General Manager


As the NFL Draft has come and gone, and mini-camps are starting, we will be reviewing each individual decision made this off-season by the Cleveland Browns. Click here for full list and links.

What was the decision

Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner, after multiple unconfirmed interviews with a number of candidates, hired Mike Lombardi to run the personnel department for the team, he was later given the General Manager title.

How does this decision fit with the rest of the off-season

This move fits directly in with other decisions made throughout the off-season. Since Lombardi’s position gives him decision making power, it is in his hire, the method of his hire and the discussion before and after his hire that fits with the off-season. Prior to Lombardi being hired, actually all the way back to when Jimmy Haslam was buying the team and bringing Joe Banner in, news leaked of this move being made. “Insiders” and “those close to the situation” reported that Lombardi was the lead candidate for the position even while Tom Heckert and Mike Holmgren were still doing their jobs. Some public and media outrage followed and continued into the off-season. Haslam and Banner still moved forward with this move. These two in power, especially Banner, seemed to show a disdain for the public. Even in the interview process the owner and CEO would not confirm or deny any interviews, which continued during the coaching search and free agency process. Following the hiring, except for the introductory press conference, Lombardi was kept from speaking with the media or to the public. Secrecy dominated this off-season and was one of the themes.

What could the Browns have done

While the Browns have a long history of losing, and there is some murmurs of concern of working for Joe Banner, this off-season should of allowed for many options based on their young improving roster, high 1st round pick and significant amount of cap space. Keeping Heckert may have been a fan favorite, but it was obvious his relationship with Banner was not a strong one. Chip Kelly was interviewed but would not of been appropriate for both the GM and the coaches role, even if he decided to come to Cleveland instead of staying in Oregon and then going to Philadelphia. Pursuit of big names such as Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and Sandusky’s own Jon Gruden may have drawn a huge fan reaction and possibly drawn in big name players and/or coaches. No other known or signficant names were hired as a GM this off-season but there were a few hired out of successful programs including John Idzik from Seattle to the Jets, Tom Telesco from Colts to San Diego, Dave Gettleman from the Giants to Carolina and John Dorsey from Green Bay to the Chiefs. All of these have recent experience over the last few years with teams who have had success. Each is also leaving a winning team to go on to rebuild so each would of had some interest in the Browns.

How did this decision limit the Browns

By hiring someone out of the game for many years, as well as hiring someone who is considered a media lightening rod who criticized some of the Browns young starters the Browns may have limited how players viewed coming to the team. This move also strengthened the view that Joe Banner is running the team and wants power not just as a CEO but also in personnel decisions. Banner’s public persona as smug and arrogant was also not improved by this move.

Why this decision

The easiest way answer to the why question is that Joe Banner seemed to want to hire Lombardi upon taking control of the team early in the start of last season. Banner’s desire to be involved not just in contracts and overall organizational planning, but also in personnel process also is a possible reason. Many smart and powerful people also enjoy proving people wrong, in the same way coaches often pickup players who seem to be “busts” and think they can turn them around and make something of them.

How does this decision impact 2013 season

This decision will have a dramatic impact on the 2013 season. Banner and Lombardi will be making all personnel decisions in both the draft and free agency. The two of them also had to rely on scouts and a system that was setup by Heckert and Co. for the information they need to make decisions. It is with the players in free agency and draft that will start to establish the system that the Front Office wants to put in place, with 2013 being  another new start expectations need to be lower. If Heckert was kept, or a big name brought in expectations would be higher for 2013.

How does this decision impact beyond 2013 season

Beyond 2013, in years 2 and 3, Lombardi will have a chance to put a stamp on this roster. Since he was not involved in drafting many of our top players, both on Offense and Defense, it is possible that some or many of those players will be moved out for people fitting his design. This could delay the building of a foundation that seemed to be laid over the past 3 years.

Was this a good decision looking back

This decision is difficult to judge as the off-season ends. The other options listed above for GM have more recent history in the league, as well as recent success but that doesn’t guarantee success but would of been more accepted then this hire. A big name hire would of been a boon to the excitement level as well as legitimize the organization, but since none were hired by other teams its safe to assume there was no interest in returning on their part. Given the active, but limited free agent period, and a head scratching draft (especially in the 3rd and 4th round) the Lombardi hire at this time is not looking like a great decision and could of been replaced by one of those hired by other teams. The hire of Assistant GM Ray Farmer gives the Browns one of these types on the staff.

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