The man known for his “hello, friends” greeting has a very different message for the enemies of new Browns V.P. of player personnel Mike Lombardi.
Jim Nantz of CBS has launched an assault against those in the Cleveland media who are criticizing the team’s decision to hire Lombardi — and against those within the league who have been, in Nantz’s view, backstabbing Lombardi.
Nantz made a spirited call on Friday to the local CBS Radio affiliate, and he followed it with a 17-minute interview by Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal, during which Nantz admitted to possibly sounding “over the top” because he was walking briskly in the cold. Nantz called the media opponents of Lombardi “smarmy” and accused them of “personal vendettas,” apparently pinning most of the blame on Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com.
“Maybe I was speaking in broader terms, really, about just the overall climate in Cleveland. I’m not into attacking anybody in the media, ever, because I live in the same world,” Nantz said. “But I do think it has gone beyond the overall coverage . . . who are all these people who think they know more about football than Mike Lombardi?”
To his credit, Nantz at all times acknowledged a friendship with Lombardi. Still, the zeal with which Nantz defended Lombardi more than counters the potency of the attacks. At one point during the radio interview, for example, Nantz declared that Lombardi and Patriots coach Bill Belichick are the two smartest football people in the business.
We agree wholeheartedly with Nantz on one point. Backstabbing is as common in the NFL as run-blocking. Plenty of folks in the business will smile to your face, and then badmouth you as soon as you’re out of earshot. While that’s a dynamic that infects plenty of industries, it’s an accepted practice among folks who are trying to get or to keep a finite number of jobs in an industry with no current inclination to expand beyond 32 shops.
And Lombardi has been a victim of it. We know that because, over the years, we’ve heard it.
Has it unfairly kept Lombardi out of the league for an extended period of the time? Possibly, and if so that’s a shame.
But consider this undeniable fact: Lombardi didn’t get an interview for any of the other six G.M. vacancies. Not even the Jets, who conducted a scorched-earth campaign to find someone who would take the job, brought him in for an interview.If that’s a product of Lombardi being a victim of backstabbers and politics, it’s a damn shame.
Regardless of how it got to this point, Lombardi now has a chance to prove Nantz right, and to prove the naysayers wrong. If the Browns thrive, he’ll be viewed as succeeding. If the Browns continue to struggle, he’ll be viewed as failing.
Like everyone else in those positions, Lombardi has earned a chance to push the needle one way or the other.