(Berea) - The Cleveland Browns have hired TV analyst Michael Lombardi as their vice president of player personnel.
Lombardi has 22 years of pro front office experience, but he has spent the past five seasons working for the NFL Network. He previously worked for the Browns from 1987-95 under then-coach Bill Belichick. Lombardi has also worked for new Browns CEO Joe Banner in Philadelphia and the two have maintained a close relationship. Last week, Banner denied Lombardi was assisting him in the club's coaching search.
Lombardi has also worked in San Francisco and Oakland, where he spent eight seasons (1999-2007).
The Browns have been looking for a general manager or personnel director since Tom Heckert was fired following a 5-11 season. Heckert overhauled Cleveland's roster in three seasons.
Lombardi calls being with the Browns a "tremendous opportunity." He says he understands the fan's passion and how important the Browns are to Cleveland. He called the team's departure in 1996 "heartbreaking".
Lombardi says he missed Sundays in the NFL while working as an analyst and was ready to get back into the league. He says he's excited and has never shied away from a challenge.
Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam says Lombardi stood out in a strong field of candidates. He calls Lombardi an outstanding player evaluator and someone who understands how to put together a team that can be a consistant winner.
Haslam also says his contacts at the top levels of the NFL told him to hire Lombardi if he was willing to take the job.
Team President Joe Banner also says Lombardi's strength is building teams rather just picking players. Banner also likes the fact that they've worked together in the past.
Last week, the team hired former Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski as its sixth coach since 1999.
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