Former NFL GM Michael Lombardi On the Super Bowl and (Hopefully) Meeting Springsteen
Michael Lombardi is a former NFL general manager and has three Super Bowl rings to his credit as a team executive with time spent with the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, and Cleveland Browns on his resume.
His most recent book, Football Done Right, offers an insider’s look into the NFL and analysis of the history, players, and coaches who have had an indelible impact on the game.
And as a New Jersey native, and a parishioner of the Church of Springsteen, Michael shares some of his memories of seeing shows at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park which just celebrated its 50th anniversary this past week.
Getting back to the Super Bowl
JM – We’ve got Kansas City with four appearances in five years, and you’ve got San Francisco back now for the second time in four years. How difficult is it to make these return, never mind winning, just getting back there. How difficult is it for an organization to do Michael?
ML – Well, it takes competitive stamina. It takes the ability to run a reach down and have to do it all over again, go back down to the base of the mountain to climb it back up again. It’s really hard. And the season is so long.
The season has extended itself so far that it can wear you down and it really takes a toll on you and the ability to get back up off the mat and know you’ve got to go back through every single step again.
It’s like we got to do this all over again. And I think it’s really a challenging time. So I admire teams that do it. I don’t think the fans understand how long the season goes because of it.
JM – I know for a while the Buffalo Bills were kind of a punching bag for fans. “They can’t win the big one.” They got to four consecutive Super Bowls. And I don’t think, Michael, they get enough credit for doing that.
ML – Yeah, well (head coach) Marv Levy got in the Hall of Fame, so certainly got enough credit. Andre Reid got in the Hall of Fame. He gets credit. James Lofton’s in the Hall of Fame. He got credit. Jim Kelly.
But I think all of them would exchange all that for one of those Super Bowls to turn their way. And they had a chance against the Giants in 91 and they just couldn’t quite get that done.
So look, it’s hard. It’s hard. Look, the Minnesota Vikings went through, they didn’t do four straight, but they went to four games and couldn’t win one.
The McCaffrey Difference
JM – It’s a quarterback driven league. In my mind, the player who’s going to make the biggest difference is Christian McCaffrey this Sunday. I think if the 49ers can get him going, Michael, I think they win this game. What are your thoughts?
ML – Well, I think they have to get him going in the passing game, too. I think to me he’s so dynamic as a slot receiver. He’s so dynamic as somebody that could break tackles, turn a five yard pass into a 25 yard gain. So I agree with you. I think that’s really going to be important. But yeah, he’s the difference. They can’t do what Baltimore did, which is try to run the ball 16 times.
JM – I think (Patrick) Mahomes is a better quarterback than (Brock) Purdy, but Purdy impressed me a lot this regular season – young kid, and he just doesn’t seem to get frazzled very easily.
ML – Well, he started 42 games in college. Right. That matters. I know it’s Iowa State, but that matters. You’ve gone into Oklahoma, you go into Nebraska, you go into big venues. Iowa, they play them the Big 12. And so you’re used to it.
And so the more experience you have in anything in life, the better you get at it. And he’s good. We’re not giving him enough credit.
Mahomes has done a great job of adjusting his game. During the regular season, he averaged seven yards per attempt. During the postseason he averages seven yards per attempt.
But what he’s done a great job in the postseason is he hasn’t turned the ball over. He had 14 interceptions in the regular season. He hasn’t turned the ball over yet.
Michael’s Super Bowl pick
ML – I’m rooting for the Niners. I think this game is a tribute to Coach Walsh. He started the West Coast Offense.
Both teams are on the West Coast Offense. The organizations, how they operate is how Walsh operated his team.
And this game we should honor him. He should be on the coin flip. It should be a picture of him on a coin flip. And I think ultimately I’m going to root for Coach Walsh as he watches down below and sees this game.
So I’m hoping the Niners win 27-23. But I love the Chiefs, too. This will be a fun game to watch,
Memories of the Stone Pony
JM – I know you’ve said you’ve come from the Church of Springsteen. And of course, this week, a lot of people celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in New York City and the first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the first of three consecutive.
But also, and more attuned into New Jersey, this past week was the 50th anniversary of the stone pony. And I was wondering if you have any memories of shows at that club.
ML – I do, and I love it. I was, as a teenager, I went up there. When I was growing up, the drinking age was 18, so you could get into the club. You were 17, you had a fake id then you didn’t have to look like you shaved five times a day.
So I can remember going up there and getting in there just because you always heard (Bruce Springsteen) might just show up and play. This has been an ongoing dream of mine, is to shake his hand, and I’ve yet to do it.
Now I’m going to go to Roberto’s in Freehold to have lunch one day and just sit there and maybe he’ll show up because I know he goes there. Like I’m stalking the poor guy.
My wife just gave me this incredible gift for Christmas where there’s a painting in a restaurant we go to of him playing a concert and it didn’t fit in my office, so we arranged another painting of him with the “Born To Run” guitar on stage. It reminded me of when I saw him in Florence. I chased him there, too, and I’m trying to get that. I have to figure out a way to get it signed. It’s been an ongoing passion of mine.
I mean, look, I can honestly say as a kid who grew up in New Jersey, I know this sounds like cliche-ish, but if I didn’t hear the words “across Highway 9,” if I didn’t hear the words “chase your dream,” “get out of town,” I might never have done it.
And so for me, I’m thankful for two people in my life. I often give speeches out to thank people about how they altered your life. And Springsteen is one of the people who altered my life.
Building A Winning Team
JM – You mentioned giving speeches and there’s definitely one thing I wanted to bring to our listeners attention here this morning, Michael, and that is you’re doing this “Building A Winning Team” on February 22. It’s a free event. Tell our listeners about that.
ML – Well, so George Raveling and I – for the listeners, George Raveling used to be the head basketball coach at Iowa, USC and Washington State. He was on the stage when Dr. King gave the “I have a dream” speech.
And when Dr. King walked off that stage, Coach Raveling asked him for a copy of that speech and he gave it to him.
And Rav has owned it since that time. He gave it to Villanova, his alma mater, in their library.
So he and I decided to start a website called The Daily Coach, which is a newsletter every day about positivity, about leadership. And we’re going to have a seminar on what it takes to hire people because the grading system that we put together, (Bill) Belichick and I, that I wrote about in Gridiron Genius can apply to anybody’s business on how to hire, selecting talent, whether you’re selecting it for a computer office, whether you’re selecting it for Roberto’s Diner in Freehold, or whether you’re doing it for the New York Football Giants, all comes down to what you’re looking for.
So we’re going to hold a seminar and hopefully people will join us. It’s free.
Interested in this seminar? Details are right here, and remember it’s free to register.
Sign up for the Daily Coach email, too. You’ll find it to be a great way to start your day.