Lombardi's tie to Belichick is a long one

Lombardi's tie to Belichick is a long one

It’s only June yet the Patriots have already found a way to lose a Lombardi. Get it? Like the trophy? But it’s NOT the trophy. It’s Mike Lombardi, longtime consigliere to Bill Belichick, who is pulling up stakes after two seasons with the team, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. 

During the time Lombardi was officially with the team, he was credited with turning the team on to Dion Lewis and Brian Tyms, a pair of former Browns that Lombardi was familiar with from his brief time as Cleveland’s GM. Lombardi was also in Cleveland with Jabaal Sheard, who the Browns drafted in 2011. The Patriots considered Sheard in the second round that year but went with Ras-I Dowling instead.

PFT’s Mike Florio speculates that Lombardi – who has toggled between front office jobs and the media since 2008 – may land at HBO. 

Reiss reports that the split is “amicable.” If that’s indeed the case, given the longstanding relationship between Lombardi and Belichick, there’s little reason to think Lombardi won’t continue to be a non-staff consultant/sounding board going forward.

In February 2012, when Lombardi was working for NFL Network, he was present at the Patriots Saturday Super Bowl walkthrough, a gathering normally reserved for team staff, players and family. He worked four years with Belichick beginning in 1992 when Belichick took over as Browns head coach.

Lombardi eventually went to the Raiders and had a good run, helping build the team that lost to the Patriots in the 2001 Snow Bowl and to the Bucs in the 2002 Super Bowl. But by 2007, things had gone sideways in Oakland and Lombardi was fired in May. That dismissal came soon after Randy Moss was traded to the Patriots, a move Raiders owner Al Davis said was a favor by Lombardi to Belichick.

Davis, in a side session with reporters after a memorable, September press conference during which he used an overhead projector to back up his reasons for firing head coach Lane Kiffin, circled back to Moss.

“You know how many teams turned [Moss] down? That guy in Green Bay [Ted Thompson] thought he couldn’t run any more. Even Denver, where they’ll take anybody, turned him down.

“But what’s his name knew he could run, he’s a friend of Belichick’s. Mike Lombardi,” said Davis. “Mike sold what’s his name, Belichick, on the idea that he 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. He’s their team, of course, with the quarterback.”

Asked why Lombardi was taking shots at Davis after Lombardi’s dismissal, Davis said, “He was with me eight years. Mike Lombardi has been fired from every job he’s had. Every job. He can’t get a job. Last year he was fired from a job he was working for for nothing. He was fired from Denver. But he does have ability. He does have some ability. But he was bad to [Raiders coach Art] Shell. Not necessary. You can’t get that in an organization, somebody in the organization bad-mouthing the coach. … But it’s tough, you know. It just wasn’t right. Shell was… been here all his life. I just… would stick up for him, so both of them had to go.

Lombardi denied Davis’ claim, adding that it only made sense to explain Moss could “still run” since the Raiders were trying to deal Moss.

Lombardi was very accessible to the media prior to joining the Patriots but – after being hired – seemed anxious whenever he was near reporters and would avoid eye contact. He did seem to warm over the past few months, though.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Jacoby Brissett on sharing a QB room with Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Jacoby Brissett on sharing a QB room with Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo

The New England Patriots once had a quarterback group featuring Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jacoby Brissett. All three were starters this past season in the NFL and one will be playing in the Super Bowl.

And as all New England fans know, it isn't Brady.

Yes, in 2020, Garoppolo will get his first crack as a Super Bowl starter when his San Francisco 49ers take the field against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in Miami. Garoppolo already has two rings as a backup for the Patriots, but he now will get a chance to earn one himself.

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Ahead of Garoppolo's biggest matchup, Tom E. Curran caught up his former teammate, Brissett, to discuss Garoppolo's success with the 49ers.

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And when Curran asked Brissett point-blank if he was proud of Garoppolo, Brissett didn't hesitate to answer. 

No question. You know, just to see, like, where he was ... I mean, we were together what, three years ago? But the relationship has carried throughout and just to see how far he's come because I know some of the things he's been through. Last year, he tears his ACL. And this year, he's in the Super Bowl. It's no shock when you watch him work and go about his business and when you watch him on the field.

And why is Garoppolo finding so much success? It's hard to explain, says Brissett.

It's hard to explain. It's just Jimmy. He just somehow finds a way. I remember when we were getting ready for Arizona and he went out there and balled. And it was just like, yeah that looks right.

A lot about Garoppolo's play "looked right" during his time with the Patriots, and that's part of the reason that Bill Belichick was so reluctant to trade him. But ultimately, the deal was completed and now, Garoppolo is going to get a chance to win a title with his new team.

For more of Curran's interview with Brissett including Brissett's thoughts on sharing a QB room with Brady and Garoppolo as well as Curran and Phil Perry's thoughts on the 20th anniversary of Belichick's hiring,  check out the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast, which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

Charlie Weis on Tom Brady's future: Why is he a free agent if he didn't want to look into it?

Charlie Weis on Tom Brady's future: Why is he a free agent if he didn't want to look into it?

MIAMI — Few know what Tom Brady has meant to the growth and development of the Patriots dynasty better than Charlie Weis. 

The former Patriots offensive coordinator, who's now working as a Sirius XM NFL Radio host, helped guide Brady from young game-manager to one of the game's greats. Together they refined the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system that's broken records.

On Radio Row on Monday afternoon, I asked Weis what he thinks will happen with Brady this offseason. Where will the 43-year-old quarterback, who's scheduled to hit free agency for the first time in his career, end up?

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"Let me give two answers to that," Weis said. "I'm just going over what I hope happens and then a practical answer, too. For the New England Patriots, I hope Tommy retires as a New England Patriot for their fans, for their owner, for the organization. I want it to look like when Eli [Manning] walked away the other day. 

"I want to be sitting in the front row — well, it used to be the front row, it'll probably be the eighth row now — I want to be sitting in that audience when they're having his announcement of retirement."

But Weis understands the reality of pro football. He understands the uncertainty involved when a player hits the market. He understands the possibility exists that the storybook ending may not be the ending for a quarterback who's scrawled dozens of fairy tales over the course of 20 years in New England.

"That being said," Weis continued, "Joe Montana left the 49ers, right? My only question, and it's rhetorical, but Tommy's an unrestricted free agent. If he didn't want to at least look into that, why would he be an unrestricted free agent? I'm just asking. It's a rhetorical question. We don't have to give an answer to that. That's not the answer that I hope happens, but, I mean, it's a worthy question to ask."

It is. Brady had the franchise tag option removed for 2020 when he and the Patriots re-worked his deal last summer. He invited the opportunity to have some autonomy over his future. As a result, he'll have a chance to gauge the market and see how teams value his services.

How many teams believe he's the quarterback who three seasons ago won the MVP? How many believe he's the quarterback who two seasons ago made key throws in the AFC title game and Super Bowl to win a sixth Lombardi? How many teams believe he's the middling quarterback his 2019 numbers suggest he might be?

By the time the NFL Combine rolls around next month, and as the league creeps closer toward the legal tampering period ahead of free agency — March 16 and 17 — that market will likely have crystallized. Both for Brady and the Patriots. 

It seems unlikely that, given the way 2019 played out, the Patriots would be willing to go beyond what they gave Brady last year — a one-year deal worth $23 million — when Brady was looking for a longer commitment. But last year the Patriots didn't have to compete with other teams for Brady's services. 

To what lengths will Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft be willing to go to ensure Brady is back? To what lengths would another ownership group be willing to go in order to win the Brady bid, improving their quarterback position and upping their profile? 

If Brady is still trying to make a decision well into the tampering period and into free agency, it puts the Patriots in an awkward position. As we pointed out last week, would the Patriots go after another quarterback in order to make sure they're covered at that spot?

If they wait and wait for Brady, chances are he could choose another team. And chances are, by then, the rest of the league's quarterback dominoes could have fallen, and the Patriots would be forced to go with Jarrett Stidham, a rookie, or a less-than-desirable free agent. 

It's a delicate dance. Emotions, dollars, legacies hang in the balance. But if Brady hits free agency, it's inevitable.

And if he didn't want to hit free agency, as Weis explained, then why would he be an unrestricted free agent?