Mike Lombardi in his own Words: Part Deux

It took much longer to get the second part of this series out than I anticipated and for that I apologize. We're all Cleveland Browns fans here so we should be used to people over promising and under delivering. Part one covered scattered elements of the first 46 minutes of an interview of Mike Lombardi by Bill Simmons from the 10/16/12 "BS Report" podcast. This transcription picks up at 47:28 and covers almost the entirety of the last 12 minutes of the podcast. There is a good deal about Cleveland '95 in here and i found it pretty interesting.

[Related: Part one of this series can be found here]

Simmons: ". . . NFL Network's Cleveland '95 documentary, which premiered two weeks ago. I really liked it. I thought it was good and you were prominently involved, ‘cause you were one of the behind the scenes guys for the Browns. What was it like to watch the footage of Belicheck and Nick Saban and who else was on that team uh Scott Pioli, like what was it like to see all that stuff 20 years later?"

Lombardi: "I didn't watch all of it Bill. it was a little too hard. It was a memory that I kind of have tucked back in my mind. I, you know, it was a little bit difficult to go back to that '95 season. I think the memory I have most relevant in my head is we played Houston after the move was announced and Bill and I got in his car. We both had driven separately to the stadium and we went in there and we drove out to his house in Willoughby Hills or Moreland Hills(he is referring to Art Modell here, I believe) or one of those places. We got there and there was a house full of wardrobe boxes, I can still see it to this day. We went in and into his library and he was sitting there very upset and basically said to both of us " I expect you both to win or you won't be here next year.". We went we got back in the car we looked at each other and said, 'This is going to be hard for us, this is going to be really hard.'"

Simmons: "So you couldn't even watch the whole documentary?"

Lombardi: "No, I didn't, no, I didn't. It was really a hard time, what people don't understand is we were abandoned there in '95. I mean it was and we had a really good thing going and we had a lot of really talented people there, some got on the camera that didn't belong on the camera. They weren't there that long, they will remain nameless but some were really important parts of the success that we had there. We were building something bigger than what I think people actually thought. There were some people in the town some reporters that didn't really support the situation, that really attacked Bill, attacked me, they attacked everybody. They really brought the program down, they weren't on the camera, they didn't have enough to show up on the camera either."

Simmons: "I remember, obviously Belicheck came to the Patriots in '96. I remember thinking this is good, this is the guy from the Giants he can help us but also thinking this is the guy that everybody in Cleveland hated. That was my takeaway just as a sports fan who had no vested interest in what happened. The Browns left Cleveland and everybody hated Bill Belichek those were the two takeaways I had as a casual sports fan living in Boston, Massachusetts."

Lombardi: "Yeah, no question and that was because of some situations that happened and some reporters in the town that really, I think Bill still doesn't talk to this day. I mean really painted a picture that was different than what Cleveland '95 came out to be. The people in the town, as you look back on it, they lost their team it was painful. It was a moment of a difficult part of my life. It was really the best of times and the worst of times at times. It was a learning experience for me to be around so many talented people that I was fortunate enough to be around."

Simmons: "So when Baltimore won the title in 2000 and, you know, it was some of the nucleus that you guys had built when you were there. Like, so that sounds like that must have been just as painful."

Lombardi: "Well, I don't you know it was a different team and Ozzie took the approach that we had in Cleveland and he molded it in his own way. I didn't really get a sense of envy on that or like I think we could have done it in Cleveland if we had we all stayed together. I think clearly we could have maintained a strong team but, you know, there was a lot of part of that team and I have said this before.

I said in the documentary Jim Schwartz did a thousand hours of work on Ray Lewis. Ray Lewis, how about this for an interview, I can still remember and I have talked to Ray about this. I interviewed, Bill and I interviewed him in a room, Lawrence Phillips and Ray Lewis at the same time. It was hilarious and one guy was, you could see the difference in both players, it was fascinating. We did a lot of work on him. I can still remember Jim Swartz calling me in his office and we made a tape it had over 200 plays on it. So we could, Ozzie knew and I knew and everyone in the building knew that Bill was not in favor of little linebackers and so we were going to have to sell it to Bill to get it through and we were prepared to do it. Ray Lewis was the two-time light heavyweight state wrestling champ in Florida. He would have won it three times only he got disqualified as a sophomore for throwing a guy off the mat. I love that story."

Simmons: "That's great. So you didn't see the part with the last home game ‘cause that was just something I had kind of forgotten about. That was an insane scene."

Lombardi: " I still have the program from the last home game. I still have it with me. I mean, that stadium was, my booth was on the roof. I looked down on the field I loved it. I could see Lake Erie, I mean, I have some great memories of Cleveland. Painful memories but, great ones you know and I loved the people there and I thought we were really building something. I knew Bill and I knew Bill was going to be a success when we all left. He got fired on Valentine's Day. I left the 21st and knew that when he left to go somewhere else he was going to be great."

Simmons: "What's weird is you have a great deal of affection for Art Modell and he was the guy who moved the team."

Lombardi: "Well, you know I had it, you know Art had a lot of things. Art gave me an opportunity to work my craft and in the NFL it is tough to work your craft. It's tough to learn your business and he gave you that and you can't, there's parts of Art that I love there's parts that I didn't always agree with. His handling of Bill, you know, as I used to tell Art all the time Bill's audience was the 60 people in that room, they weren't Northeast Ohio. So it was important for but Art was more of a salesman. He wanted somebody to get out there and sell with him and Bill was a football coach. It was not a good situation in terms of the marriage between Bill and Art because they were so dramatically different."

Simmons: "It is kind of amazing that the Browns did get football again. I been writing about this the last couple of weeks. I got this question from somebody last week "Who is the greatest coach in "new" Browns history?". The only choices were Butch Davis and Romeo Crennel, that's kind of amazing, an amazing 12 year run for a team."

Lombardi: "Well, I mean they've actually gotten into one of these they hired quasi-celebrities. I mean when they came back they brought Carmen Policy in to run the team and Carmen never really, you know, built the 49ers. Bill Walsh built the 49ers. You hire guys to do jobs that have never actually done the job but because of associations people think they can do it."

Simmons: "And Holmgren, pretty mixed reviews so far."

Lombardi: " Well I think Mike has never been around, you know Mike has always been the coach. He's never really been the GM alone. I'm not a good personnel guy without the right coach, you know. Bill as his own GM is really a good coach and a GM. Sometimes Bill the GM let's down Bill the coach but, rarely does Bill the coach ever let down Bill the GM . That's the challenge. It's part of pro football, coaching now, that you better have a blue chip coach."

Simmons: "Last question, Who do you think is the best up and coming young coach, right now?"

Lombardi: "In the National Football League or in college?"

Simmons: "National Football League."

Lombardi: "Well, I've always said this and people laugh at me and they think I'm crazy but they laughed at me when I said this about Bill. I think Josh McDaniels when you see him in New England and what he is doing. I think he was in the wrong situation in Denver they didn't understand him. I think he was too young to get that much authority but he's an outstanding young coach. I think Kyle Shanahan has a chance to be an outstanding young coach as he moves forward. Both guys get scrutinized by the media quite a bit but I think both guys are smart and I think they understand what they are doing."

Simmons: "Kyle Shanahan is interesting. It makes sense the guy has spent his whole life in football."

Lombardi: " I mean watch the offense and how they have adapted it to RGIII. I mean they're not running plays that somebody else can run. They've studied this. I mean, I think he comes from a good, good lineage and I think both those guys. I think Josh McDaniels because of the Denver experience, much like Bill in Cleveland, I think he's gotten a rap about should he have been the GM of the Denver Broncos? Probably not. Probably not."

Simmons: "Right. Well, let's say I'm a super rich guy. Let's say I'm a guy who lives in Dallas and happens to own a team that won Super Bowls a while ago and then hasn't really been good for 15 years. Why wouldn't I offer Chip Kelly like 60 million dollars to be my coach?"

Lombardi: "I've written about Chip Kelly for going back to last year. I think Chip Kelly is outstanding."

Simmons: "Isn't that the Jim Harbaugh move? Name your price, what is your price to come to the NFL because I will pay it, just tell me what the number is."

Lombardi: "I think college guys are concerned about a couple of things. There is a lot of restrictions in terms of rules, how much you can coach the players. There are a lot of restrictions about what you can actually get done and there is not as much freedom in terms of decision-making process. So, I think those would have to be answered for Chip Kelly to leave and can he actually be able to run the offense. You think he's going to run that no huddle silent count offense at the line of scrimmage with Dez Bryant out there. I'm just asking."

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