The Patriots haven’t done a helluva lot this offseason.
The Browns, however, have. And every time they do something, there seems to be a Patriots link.
There are better franchises to be linked with.
The latest Browns’ stains emanate from Mike Lombardi.
Mary Kay Cabot, writing for Cleveland.com notes the dysfunction in the Cleveland power structure that led to Lombardi and Joe Banner being fired this week by Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam.
Lombardi -- a longtime friend and confidante of Bill Belichick -- was hired as Browns GM a year ago by Banner, the team’s CEO.
But Belichick, according to Cabot, was swinging influence over Haslam during the Browns’ coaching search.
After the abrupt and messy firing of head coach Rob Chudzinski, the Browns embarked on a hamhanded effort to get a new guy.
In the latter stages of the coaching search, Lombardi's good friend Belichick was calling to advise Haslam on candidates, including encouraging him to interview fired Bucs coach Greg Schiano, sources confirmed for cleveland.com. Sports Illustrated's Peter King first reported that Banner was miffed about the last-minute Schiano interview, which took place a day or two after their second interview with Mike Pettine at the Senior Bowl in late January.
Against Banner's wishes, the Browns left the Senior Bowl and flew to Tampa to interview Schiano, who was coming off a scandal-rocked 4-12 season. The year was marred by a MRSA outbreak in the locker room and a public battle between the team and quarterback Josh Freeman. At the time, the interview looked like a favor for a coach down on his luck, but it was more than that. Haslam listened to the recommendations of Belichick and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, and overrode his CEO's opinion. Others in the organization were also on board with talking to Schiano.
Meanwhile, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was in the mix for the Browns head coaching job from the start. Cleveland’s brass flew to Foxboro to meet with McDaniels during Wild Card weekend.
But McDaniels withdrew his name from consideration soon after. Some reported McDaniels was out because he wasn’t the frontrunner. Others reported it was because the Cleveland job wasn’t appealing.
In either case, Cabot reports that McDaniels had a change of heart and -- with Belichick’s support -- put his hat back in the ring a day after news of his pulling out broke.
Sources told me prior to the AFC Championship game that McDaniels was still on the Browns’ radar and that his candidacy could be resuscitated if the Patriots lost. Cabot’s story confirms that “(McDaniels) remained in the running right up until the end, when the Browns hired Pettine on Jan. 23. In fact, he received the support and recommendation of Belichick right up until the 11th hour.”
This week, Haslam decided he’d had enough.
Who could blame him? He was being advised by Lombardi before Lombardi was actually hired. He hired Banner as CEO 16 months ago then officially hired Lombardi three months later.
Once brought together in this somewhat forced marriage, it apparently didn’t take long before the two longtime executives with no shared background were apparently engaged in a whole bunch of Machiavellian BS trying to undercut each other and surround themselves with their own guys.
Now, it’s being reported that Lombardi will be joining the Patriots’ personnel department. I haven’t confirmed that, but it is no surprise. Lombardi was often around the Patriots even when working as an analyst for NFL Network and his son, Mick Lombardi, worked for the Patriots in 2012 before joining the 49ers.
With Lombardi out of Cleveland and a new coaching staff and GM in place, one supposes that the persistent Browns-Patriots link has been severed.