|Four thoughts on potential reunion between Bill Belichick and Mike Lombardi||02.13.14 at 9:19 pm ET|
It sounds more and more like Bill Belichick and Mike Lombardi are going to be working together again. Here are four thoughts on what that reunion would mean for both sides:
1. Belichick and Lombardi are like-minded individuals when it comes to running a football team — Lombardi has a deep and abiding relationship with Belichick that goes back to 1991, when Lombardi was working with Belichick in Cleveland. And while there have been several stops for Lombardi in the last 20-plus years, if there’s anyone left in the organization who could serve as a true counterpoint to Belichick on personnel matters, it would be Lombardi.
The Patriots coach has spoken glowingly of Lombardi in the past, including this statement in December:
‘He’s thorough, he’s smart, he’s thorough, he understands football,’ Belichick said of Lombardi last December in the days leading up to the Browns-Patriots game. ‘He understands not just personnel, but schemes and how certain players fit into certain schemes better than others because of the responsibilities in those schemes; the type of plays or the type of system that coaches run, different coaches run.
‘There are obviously a lot of different coaches in this league, different coaches in college, so that affects the performance of the players — some good, some bad, depending on how they fit into that particular system. I think he has a very good understanding of that, which is important for personnel people to understand, just like it is for coaches to understand personnel.
‘Mike is a hard working guy that won’t leave a stone unturned. He’ll find players, the Tony Joneses of the world, the Wally Williams of the world, the guys like that that played very well for us at Cleveland that nobody ever heard of that came out of nowhere that were good football players. He has a way of finding those guys.’
The relationship between Belichick and Lombardi was so close, in fact, that after Lombardi left the Raiders (he was there in various capacities from 1998 until 2007), then-owner Al Davis accused Lombardi of helping New England to the detriment of Oakland, pointing to the 2007 deal that brought Randy Moss to the Patriots. ‘What’s his name knew he could run, he’s a friend of Belichick’s. Mike Lombardi. Mike sold what’s his name, Belichick, on the idea that [Moss] could run. They tampered with him. I remember Bob Kraft saying that he had to look him in the eye and all that. They went down and worked him out, he could run.’ Lombardi later denied the charges. ‘I was trying to do the best thing for the Raiders, always have,’ he said. ‘In this situation, Bill Belichick is not going to always rely on my opinion for information. He is going to look at what he sees on the tape.’
2. Lombardi would serve as what might best be termed ‘Nick Caserio Insurance.’ The Patriots current personnel chief suddenly became a man in demand this offseason, as he took two interviews for the vacant Miami GM job, and while it’s debatable how open Caserio would be to leaving Foxboro, the fact that he put himself out there is a sign he could be interested in moving on sooner rather than later, and if/when he did, Lombardi would offer another personnel voice. As it stands right now, it’s unclear what sort of role or title Lombardi would have in the organization, but he’d likely be part of an inner circle of personnel men, a group that includes Belichick, Caserio and college scouting director Jon Robinson.
3. Belichick has had veteran voices in his corner on several occasions, with the latest being Floyd Reese, who served as ‘senior football advisor’ in New England from 200 through 2012. (According to several people close to the organization, Reese was the one who negotiated contracts.) It’s unlikely that Lombardi would fill that role, as he’s more of a personnel man, but it’s not out of the realm that he could have multiple responsibilities if needed.
4. It’s also worth mentioning that despite the fact he was never officially on the Patriots payroll, he continued to keep an interest in New England. His son Mick worked for the Patriots in 2012 before moving on to take a job with the Niners, and then, last year, with the Browns. In addition, Shalise Manza-Young of the Boston Globe reports that Lombardi served as an unofficial advisor/consultant with the Patriots when it came to the 2010 and 2012 drafts.
|Updates on Josh Cribbs, Danny Amendola and how their situations might affect the Wes Welker sweepstakes||03.13.13 at 12:44 am ET|
Three more notes before the end of the night:
• The Josh Cribbs saga continues. After a report from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer at the start of the day that linked the return man to New England, a Fox Sports report later dismissed the idea, and said that Cribbs could be ticketed to the Cardinals. But late Tuesday evening, another report from Mary-Kay Cabot of the P-D indicates that Cribbs has narrowed it down to New England and Arizona. (She reports the Niners were in the mix for a bit, but have since dropped out.) Cabot is also reporting that there is interest in both sides in a trade that would send Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Browns. Cleveland’s new personnel chief Mike Lombardi is tight with Bill Belichick, and Lombardi has expressed his admiration for Mallett in the past on more than one occasion.
• Multiple outlets are now reporting that the market has started to narrow for slot receiver Danny Amendola, with the Ravens and Eagles in the market. Amendola, who has had a tough run of injuries as of late, caught 63 passes in 11 games in 2012, with 666 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the NFL in all purpose yards in 2010, with 689 reception yards (on 85 receptions), 452 punt return yards and 1,142 kickoff return yards. Amendola certainly makes sense from a Baltimore perspective, as the Ravens recently dealt slot receiver Anquan Boldin to the Niners for a draft pick.
• Both the Cribbs and Amendola situations would affect Welker, as New England could potentially view the younger slot receiver as a potential replacement for Welker — if Welker signs elsewhere soon (or, at least before Amendola and maybe Cribbs), the Patriots could enter into the bidding.
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: ‘I think it’s going to be New England and Denver’ in AFC||11.30.12 at 10:29 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Heading into Sunday’s game with the Dolphins, Lombardi said that the Patriots have to figure out a way to run the ball against a Dolphins team that a lot of people credit as having a better defense than they actually do.
“People say that all the time,” Lombardi said. “But when you study the team, and you’re in a nickel formation, they allow five yards per carry. So, the reality of the situation is if you want to be in two backs and you want to show how tough you are, and you want to try to prove a point and you want to prove that they can stop the run, line up in two backs and run the ball at them. You won’t have any success. So, you have to solve the problem, you have to be divergent in your thinking. So, what teams have done is spread them out, get in nickel and see if they can force the run in nickel, which fits the Patriots perfectly.”
Tom Brady and the Pats are coming off a Thanksgiving night victory over the Jets. Lombardi said that Brady is a patient quarterback and that it will benefit the Patriots in Sunday’s game.
“I think what Brady is able to do is make the right decisions almost all the time,” Lombardi said. “Since the Seattle game when he threw the ball to Deion Branch and he should’ve probably thrown it to [Rob] Gronkowski or [Aaron] Hernandez on a crossing route, you rarely see Tom take a chance that’s not there. Sometimes you get upset that he doesn’t try to at least throw it up the field, but Tom always is doing what’s best for the offense. … I think Tom plays a patient game and that really helps when you play a team like San Francisco or when you’re going to play Miami. Patience is a virtue. You’ve got to be able to continue on up the field and not always kind of try to be desperate, and I think he does a great job of that.”
Added Lombardi: “I think he’s having a great season. It’s swept under the carpet because of the running game of the Patriots. … But I think now he’s throwing the deep ball better than he has pretty much in the last three or four years.”
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: Aqib Talib will have ‘significant impact’ on Sunday||11.16.12 at 10:48 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Colts game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Cornerback Aqib Talib joins the Patriots this week and Lombardi said he can make an immediate impact on the struggling secondary.
“I think he can make a significant impact on the outside,” Lombardi said. “This week against the Colts, it’s a little different game because the Colts have a couple of those receivers who have quickness and vertical speed in [Donnie] Avery and T.Y. Hilton so they’re not really the matchup for Talib. But certainly I think he can help on outside. What it will allow the Patriots to do is, if you really break down Patriots tape, the middle of the defense — the ‘backers, the safeties — this is where they’re getting killed more than anything. … Get more speed on the field at linebacker, try to create some more situations where there is more depth in the zone drops, something that didn’t happen last week.”
The Patriots play the Colts and Andrew Luck on Sunday. Lombardi said the Colts aren’t a playoff contender yet because their defense hasn’t played a full, four-quarter game.
“[Luck] been able to control the ball, and I think [interim coach] Bruce Arians has done a wonderful job of implementing the Pittsburgh Steeler offense,” Lombardi said. “I think the whole offense is tailored exactly after the Steelers when you watch them closely on tape. They’ve been able to play what I call ‘Little League games,’ their defense has only played seven innings, they only have to play like 26 minutes in a game. And so they’ve never played a full nine-inning Major League Baseball game defensively. This week, they’re going to have to play nine innings and then we’ll find out if they’re a playoff team. … They’re a year away from me looking at them like a legitimate playoff team, but don’t underestimate Andrew Luck.”
Lombardi pointed out some of Luck’s abilities and cautioned that the Patriots need to stop him from moving in the pocket this Sunday.
“He’s only completing slightly over 55 percent of his passes, he’s taken a pounding, but one thing about Luck, he gets back up,” Lombardi said. “It doesn’t affect him whatsoever, he keeps looking down the field to take a shot down the field and that’s where he’s been so effective. … I don’t know if he has [a weakness]. His mental ability and his mental toughness to me carries over for any slight deficiencies he might have in the game. … His movement in the pocket is really what makes him so effective. The Patriots have to do a good job of controlling him in the pocket and not allowing him to move. Not because they’re afraid he’s going to run. … What he typically likes to do, like Big Ben [Roethlisberger] is move in the pocket and then make plays up the field. I think Patriots have to do a really good job of protecting him, keeping him in the pocket, and forcing him to hold that ball.”
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: Rams going to take their shots in fourth quarter||10.26.12 at 10:01 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Rams game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Some have speculated that overseas trips help teams to bond, but Lombardi said he didn’t believe so.
“The Patriots, the Rams, they’re not Boy Scouts,” Lombardi said. “Trips that go away are not bonding trips. What bonds a team is what Tom Brady did at the end of that Jets game. Coming from behind, kicking that field goal, winning the game. Those are the kind of plays that bond teams. This whole going away stuff, I’ve never bought into it.”
Asked whether the Patriots’ use of a conservative defensive scheme, one that doesn’t blitz, is partly to blame for their inability to close out games, Lombardi said the responsibility starts with the offense.
“The Patriots team this year has given up 58 points in the fourth quarter alone,” Lombardi said. “They’ve only given up 61 points in the first half alone. Because the offense hasn’t extended the lead, whether it’s Seattle where you’re up 23-13, or the Jets game where you’re up 23-13. You’ve got a chance. Put the game away, make it a 30-13 game. They didn’t do it, they made it a closer game. Same thing in Seattle, same thing in Baltimore. And I think that becomes the problem for them, when the offense doesn’t put the game away, then all of a sudden things start to fall apart. That’s really what’s happened.”
Lombardi predicts the Rams will attempt to take advantage of New England’s unimpressive defensive secondary by airing it out.
“I think they’re going to,” Lombardi said. “The Rams have a unique team. What the Rams are saying when they play you is, ‘We think you’re going to mess up. So we’re going to be as conservative as we possibly can be. We’re not going to blow this game. We’re going to try to get this game to the fourth quarter, we’re going to take our shot.’ And I think you’ll see them take shots up the field.
“I think they will throw it down the field if they can make a few plays. That’s part of what they want to do, anyway. They know they’re not good enough. They know their offensive line is really a work in progress, and that’s being polite. … They have to control the ball, stay in a lot of third-and-shorts, keep 10-play drives, and really the Rams don’t mind if you keep the ball for 10 minutes, either. They just want to keep you out of the end zone. They’ll let you have a field goal if you keep it for 10 minutes.”
|Mike Lombardi on D&C: Patriots DBs ‘have to get better’||10.19.12 at 10:35 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to review the Patriots’ loss to the Seahawks, preview Sunday’s Pats-Jets game, and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The finger has been pointed at the Patriots secondary as the key reason for the team’s struggles. Lombardi discussed how it can be improved.
“It’s certainly a concern and obviously it has to rely on some of the players. I think what you saw, let’s be real honest here, Patrick Chung’s ball skills down the field have got to get better,” Lombardi said. “I don’t know how you make them better, how you make his instincts better on the ball down the field. I think not having Steve Gregory back there is certainly a concern. … They have to get better at making plays down the field. [Devin] McCourty, everyone. And I think ultimately its something that will be worked on. It’s a skill. … Instincts for DBs are something we don’t talk enough about, we always talk about size and speed. But I think instincts really play an important part, and ultimately, that’s a hard thing to coach.”
Following the matchup with the Seahawks, Lombardi considered what teams should do against the Patriots in coming weeks.
“You should throw it up five times a quarter. Let’s be real honest, you’ve got to throw it up,” Lombardi said. “People are going to throw it to McCourty and see if he can make a play. He hasn’t been able to make a play with the ball in the air down the field all season. So I think that’s where teams see it on tape, and why not take a shot?”
Lombardi identified a weak pass rush as a contributing factor to the struggles vs. Seattle.
“More importantly than the lack of play in the secondary, I thought their pass rush last week in terms of controlling [Russell] Wilson in the pocket and, typically, that’s what the Bill Belichick defense usually does, is control him in the pocket with their pass rush,” Lombardi said. “When you have Russell Wilson, you have to rush him like he’s actually attempting a field goal. You have to force him to stay in front of you. You got to force him to see over the big guys. You got to force him to have to stand behind the center and throw the ball. And then there’s no chance he’s going to beat you doing that.”
Looking at the Patriots’ fourth-quarter struggles, Lombardi was asked whether the drive this team has showed in past years still exists.
“No, it doesn’t. There’s that fine line about where do we go, do we be aggressive offensively or do we play it and try to just let the clock run out,” Lombardi said. “I think they’ve lost a little bit of that edge, the confidence within the edge. They’ve got to find it and they’ve got to get that back. They have to make the throws they have to make. … Going 1-for-6 in the red zone is not going to win many games. … Mistakes that the Patriots typically don’t make and they’re making them and they’ve made them all season long and I think that’s where they have to eliminate that.”
|Michael Lombardi on D&C: Seahawks ‘will be a challenge’ for Patriots||10.12.12 at 10:58 am ET|
NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Seahawks game and discuss news from around the league. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Lombardi assessed the Seahawks defense and the Patriots’ chances going into Week 6.
“It will be a challenge. We lose sight of the fact that when you talk about Seattle, and certainly [CenturyLink] Field up there, it is a tough place to play. I’m not saying it’s a tough place to win, they’re 6-4 over the last 10 games up there,” Lombardi said. “And this Seattle defense, because of the crowd noise and if you do things like Green Bay did and leave the edges open and allow the Bruce Irvins and the Chris Clemons to run all over the field and create plays with their athleticism, that’s your own fault. That’s really what I don’t think New England will do.”
Lombardi said the Seahawks defense is physical and will be ready to play hard against the Patriots offense.
“They want to play fast, they want to play smart, they want to be able to be in the right place,” Lombardi said. “And you can tell what they’re going to be able to do. They’ve got a few blitzes. But pretty much, they’re not saying to you, ‘We’re going to get in a chess match with you.’ They’re saying, ‘We’re going to punch you in the mouth. We’re going to beat you.’ ”
Asked if the Seahawks are a legitimate playoff contender this year, Lombardi said the struggling offense makes that difficult to determine.
“I think they’re borderline a playoff team. This defense is tough. When they play the good offenses in the NFL, the offenses that have a little bit more than just five or six plays in terms of trying to attack them, I think they’ll run into some issues,” Lombardi said. “But the reality of it is, this [Seahawks] offense is not very explosive. And so because it’s not explosive, every game you play you could get into a situation where you could lose to a lesser opponent because you can’t put the game away.”
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