- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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I didn't think the Browns made the right move when they fired general manager Tom Heckert 19 days ago. Now, that move is even more puzzling with the announcement that the Browns have hired Mike Lombardi as their vice president of player personnel.
Replacing Heckert with Lombardi makes no sense. Heckert had rebuilt the Browns' roster, laying a foundation with the likes of Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, Trent Richardson, T.J. Ward, Jabaal Sheard and Josh Gordon. Lombardi was an analyst for the NFL Network who hadn't worked full-time for an NFL team since 2007. If Lombardi was the top choice to be the de-facto general manager, the Browns should have kept Heckert.
The decision to go with Lombardi over Heckert once again makes you think that this is the old regime and not the new one. Mike Holmgren got blasted when he selected "his guy" Pat Shurmur as coach. Chief executive officer Joe Banner is doing the same thing with "his guy" Lombardi. You'll hear stories about how Patriots coach Bill Belichick respects Lombardi so much that they still talk about teams leading up to games. But my question is why Belichick wasn't the one hiring Lombardi.
The reason Lombardi is with the Browns is because of his relationship with Banner. Lombardi worked with Banner in Philadelphia, where Lombardi helped run the draft in 1997 and served as director of pro personnel in 1998. Banner regards Lombardi as one of the smartest personnel executives he's ever worked with.
One reason I'm skeptical of this move is Lombardi's assessment of the Browns. As an analyst, Lombardi was critical of Heckert's Trent Richardson-Brandon Weeden draft, calling it a "panic disaster." He also blasted the supplemental draft pick of Gordon as a "wasted draft pick," which could prove to be Heckert's best pick in terms of value. Now, the pressure will be on Lombardi to do a better job than Heckert.
As much as the Browns' hiring of Rob Chudzinski was surprising, the addition of Lombardi was far from it. It was first speculated in August, and Banner refused to comment on it. It's now a reality and I'm still trying to understand why.