There is no shortage of negative stories to write about when it comes to Browns football. Last week I wrote about how terrible our quarterbacks are. This week I'm going to pick another low-hanging fruit. While our draft picks are a source for optimism, the guy responsible for making them couldn't be scarier. Michael Lombardi is an embarrassment to the franchise. He's a man who was so terrible at his previous jobs that he couldn't get an NFL job for six years even though his friend Bill Belichick had a position open multiple times. The only reason he has the Browns job is that he was the best man at Joe Banner's wedding. I mean, they wouldn't let a little thing like that get in the way of actually interviewing and considering executives with more recent success (or any success at all) would they?
Don't just take my word for it though, let's go over some career highlights. With the Browns in 1992 he famously took fullback "Touchdown" Tommy Vardell with his first round pick. What many people probably don't remember is that the Browns spent their second round pick that year on wide receiver Patrick Rowe, who ended his career with a grand total of three receptions and was out of the league after two seasons. Even David Veikune hung around longer than that. In all, Lombardi selected three receivers that year, and Rowe was the only one to ever pull in an NFL pass. In his first stint with the Browns, Lombardi selected six wide receivers. Derrick Alexander went on to have a decent career, Patrick Rowe caught three balls, and the other four failed to register any NFL statistics. But he'll be able to find someone to play opposite Josh Gordon right? I mean, it's not like he's so bad at identifying wide receiver talent that he would call Josh Gordon a "wasted pick" right? One last note on Lombardi's first go with the Browns: in five years he selected one pro-bowler. To put it in perspective Tom Heckert drafted three in his three seasons.
Going chronologically we'll make a pit stop with the Eagles, where Lombardi worked with Banner for one season in 1998. This draft yielded an astounding four pro-bowlers including a trade for another. That sounds awesome, but I thought it was a little fishy that somehow Lombardi managed to pull it off while sucking literally everywhere else (including as a member of the media). Turns out Lombardi didn't actually have anything to do with that draft, he was pro personnel only. Oops, there goes the one feather he had in his cap.
Now the contentious Oakland Raiders years. Many people discount this whole segment of Lombardi's resume due to Al Davis, but I don't think that's a very reasonable thing to do. Lombardi was the number two guy in the organization behind Davis, and he stuck around for ten years. That's an eternity with that (or any) franchise, so clearly Lombardi wasn't disagreeing with Al too often. In the scenario where Lombardi doesn't take any blame for guys like Jamarcus Russell one has to assume that he actively told Davis not to draft him, along with pretty much every other Raider drafted in those ten years. If Lombardi was so often questioning Davis, does anyone really think he would have stuck around that long? The only alternative is that Lombardi was little more than a lackey, and while that might be better I'm not sure what it says about a guy that he would rather be a lackey for ten years than pursue a real job.
One last note about the Raider years, but did you know Michael Lombardi was involved in frequent power struggles with the coaches working under him? That sounds crazy right? I mean, that doesn't sound at all like his recent Browns history. In the most famous example, Michael Lombardi worked hard to get Art Shell fired, then missed out on trying to hire Bobby Petrino (I can't make this stuff up) and then when Shell was brought back later Lombardi went straight back to undermining him. Those are Shell's words by the way, he's much more willing to talk publicly than Chud. In fact, Shell banned Lombardi from practices for "rooting against the team." One last last note on Lombardi's time with the Raiders, he traded Randy Moss to the Patriots for a fourth round pick, supposedly telling Davis that Moss couldn't run anymore. What a great eye for receivers he has.
This has gotten longer than I intended so I'll just stop here. There was too much material for one whine, I didn't even get to go over all the ridiculous stuff Lombardi said as a member of the media. Just remember folks: terrible draft picks, cronyism, and failing to get the head coach he wants are all par for the course when it comes to Michael Lombardi. And he's the guy running our personnel department. This is probably the single most depressing thing I can think of when it comes to the Browns. But I'm sure you guys have more, so let me know in the comments. Remember, unhappy thoughts only.