We'll get to what was yet another feel good Browns' win in a moment. But first, as I'm sure most of you have already discovered by now, it doesn't get more surreal than this:
Lombardi is also believed to possibly have an opportunity to return to the front office with another team.
The Globe report says that if Saban decides to stay at %%MATCH_9%%, the next two names on Lombardi's list would be %%MATCH_11%% coach Chip Kelly and Canton, %%MATCH_12%% native Josh McDaniels, the current Patriots offensive coordinator and former Broncos head coach. McDaniels went 11-17 in %%MATCH_10%%.
Belichick is close to both Kelly and Lombardi. Bedard wrote that Lombardi still helps Belichick with some advance scouting.
Before we again wade into the world of the Talented Mr. Lombardi, it's worth noting how this is what qualifies as a "breaking story" in 2012 journalism. MKC (along with other Cleveland writers) basically did a Google News search and came up with Greg Bedard's piece – a story itself that could have easily been written by Lombardi.
More on this in a moment.
As for MKC's "report", it is beyond comprehension to think that someone as void of talent as Lombardi has high profile coaches "on his list." Evidently, Lombardi's personnel skills are so impressive that only a select group of coaches can be honored to receive the bounty of his labors. Of course, it helps that each of the three coaches listed have strong Bill Belichick ties.
Yet again, it's worth recalling just how little front office experience and success Lombardi can actually boast. However, such a reality is lost in a report that quickly establishes Lombardi may be negotiating with a second team – which is either twice as staggering as last week's news or just a really clumsy attempt at creating imaginary leverage.
Anyway, if you read the original source, you'll quickly realize that Lombardi and Bedard should abandon football pursuits and open their own PR firm.
What would be the draw of Lombardi, who last worked in personnel from 1999-2007 as senior personnel executive to Raiders owner Al Davis?
For one thing, Lombardi has been associated with winning teams wherever he's been, from Bill Walsh's 49ers, to the Browns (where he helped build the organization into a Super Bowl contender before Art Modell pulled the plug and moved the team to Baltimore), to the Eagles and the Raiders. Lombardi's past weakness has been the cap, but Banner is an expert in that area.
Where to begin?
The revisionist history of Lombardi continues, as his "association" with winning teams is paramount to what he actually contributed to those teams. Or, if you're somehow still naive to Lombardi's charade, take a look at what his Browns' drafts produced.
Or don't – since Bedard assures us that if it wasn't for Art Modell, the Browns would have won multiple Super Bowls. It's funny that Bedard – who clearly knows Belichick's history – conveniently forgets that the 1994 Browns' playoff team was built around several ex-Bill Parcells' Giants and not draft picks like Tommy Vardell and Ed King. In Oakland, anyone knows that Al Davis controlled the Raiders' drafts and Bill Walsh barely let Lombardi pick up players from the airport, let alone draft them.
Yet somehow all the bases are covered with Lombardi's personnel prowess – as his only weakness is "the cap." And it's just our luck that Joe Banner happens to be an "expert" in that area. Talk about convenient.
Speaking of which, how convenient is this?
There have been a lot of rumors around the Browns that NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi could be the next general manager should new team president Joe Banner and owner Jimmy Haslam decide to make a switch after the season.
According to two NFL sources, there is indeed fire behind that smoke.
How many "sources?"
Seriously, that's all it takes. And I'm pretty sure Mike Lombardi was one of them.
For those of who you don't know Bedard, he is actually a very talented football writer – the rare beat writer who focuses on actual analysis of games. Bedard typically spends more time breaking down plays than writing the PR fluff shown above. For a better look at Bedard, read this or take a look at his piece on how Chip Kelly's offense is already in the NFL .
This last article may help to explain why Bedard wrote what he did. In becoming a more "cerebral" writer, Bedard has gained precious access to Belichick and has sat in on coaching film sessions. Naturally, it can be assumed that since Bedard's profile has risen, there is a bit of a quid pro quo occurring with Belichick and his old friend Lombardi. Via Bedard, Lombardi is being given another round of PR – which again will either land Lombardi a GM job or simply raise his TV profile even higher.
Finally, as for Bedard's "second source", would it be surprising if it turned out to be Belichick?
Anyway – onto to better items – like my new favorite play of the Browns' Expansion Era.
1. The %%MATCH_13%% punt return TD was brilliant on so many levels. First – and I hope I'm not being too painfully obvious here – but it kind of felt like %%MATCH_14%% passed the returner torch to Benjamin on the play. Perhaps it was fitting after hearing Cribbs lament the league's potential kickoff changes and/or realizing that Cribbs may not be brought back for 2013 by whatever Browns' management is in place, but Cribbs shifting to the line and nearly blocking the punt was another in a long line of selfless moments for an all-time great Brown.
Benjamin's return was sensational partly because the way he scored seemed to echo his overall style as a football player. There is little that is overly smooth about Benjamin. He is a pure ball of speed, but is mechanically jerky and stilted like someone who has just learned how to run after years of sitting still. On the return, it took Benjamin several weaves and staggers to get going, but when he did, it was one of the greatest visions ever captured at the Stadium.
On a personal level, I took great satisfaction in knowing that after spending the majority of the season running the exact same end around decoy play, Benjamin finally got the ball in his hands.Last week, I made the dumb joke of calling Benjamin the "Saddest Man on the Planet" as I believed him to be a Charlie Brown metaphor. Naturally, Benjamin's biggest play of his career comes on a play where he wasn't originally supposed to get the ball.
2. In terms of Special Teams play, this may have marked the first time that Chris Tabor's units will be remembered for positively affecting the outcome of a game – not withstanding %%MATCH_18%%'s near perfection in kicking field goals. Typically, the Browns' Special Teams have struggled with botched snaps, illegal blocking penalties and poor punting. However, Sunday's game marks a definite high point in terms of both productivity and creativity.
3. Of course, the offensive coaching staff also turned in a productive and creative performance. Dating back to last season's Rams' game, I have been critical of Pat Shurmur's sometimes primitive offensive tendencies. In that particular game, you may remember that Shurmur threw out some juvenile and ineffective gadget plays. However in a progression of sorts, Shurmur dialed up some effective Wildcat-esque running plays and generally kept the Chiefs' defense off balance throughout the afternoon. Shurmur's play calling has certainly matured over the past few weeks and now shows signs of modest progress.
4. Speaking of these few unique running plays, we were finally given a sample of what Greg Little can do when used outside of a traditional receiver role. In the past, I have suggested (probably on multiple occasions) that Little could be used in a Percy Harvin-lite role. The hope now is that the coaching staff sees the possibilities they have in Little.
5. Once again, %%MATCH_16%% proves to be the hardest working Browns' running back in decades, as he once again has to break his body for every one of his 42 yards. Yet, some oblivious Browns' fan will look at %%MATCH_15%%'s garbage time stat line and call for a change in the starting lineup.
6. Regardless of caliber of the Browns' opponent, it's satisfying just to use the phrase "garbage time" when referring to a win. Similar to how the Browns' defense has played hard for Dick Jauron all season, there was little evidence of a slow down during the second half of Sunday's game. The Chiefs were not able to garner any momentum during the second half – even when the game was decidedly out of reach.
7. The most impressive aspect of the defense's performance came on Third Downs, where the Browns only allowed one successful conversion. Granted, the Chiefs' offense appeared limited once Brady Quinn's downfield options were covered. For those of us who remember the limits of a Brian Daboll offense, once the initial reads were covered, third down plays usually ended in quarterback sacks. On Sunday, the Browns used Daboll's scheme to their advantage.
8. Similarly, I was reminded of how frustrating it was to watch a Romeo Crennel defense continually sit in soft zones while opponents easily completed passes. Several times I had scary flashbacks to Daylon McCutcheon and %%MATCH_20%% before remembering that Crennel coaching in Cleveland can actually be a good thing. Certainly, %%MATCH_17%% was able to connect with Little and %%MATCH_19%% enough to keep the Browns in scoring position.
9. Regarding Crennel, it's again probably an overly figurative gesture, but in an odd way the Browns purified themselves of several ghosts of their expansion past. Seeing Crennel, Daboll, Quinn, Hillis and even Abe Elam was a reminder of the baggage of the Randy Lerner era. In a sense, defeating these ex-Browns doesn't amount to a great feat, but in a purely cleansing kind of manner, it's an important win.
10. Finally, while all of those above names provided a lot of unique memories, it's again worth stating that the current collection of Browns' talent is perhaps the most likable and hard working group found during the expansion era. While we'll always have the relative success of the 2002 and 2007 teams, each were tempered by small batches of petulance. The 1999 team is memorable for an entirely different reason and with the exception of individual players, perhaps no recent Browns' team has played in the context of so much organizational change. But then again, considering the blissful youth of the 2012 team, it probably hasn't affected them at all.