Former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi tells us about his football journey and provides an NFL history lesson in his new book, “Football Done Right,” which presents his calls on the greatest players and coaches the sport has ever seen.
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Nestor Aparicio, Mike Lombardi
Nestor Aparicio 00:01
What about w n s t, Towson, Baltimore, and Baltimore positive we are positively into let’s see. Oriole playoff race. We got the Ravens play now which, you know, everybody knows authors are my favorite but especially authors that aren’t like slapstick journalists like me like real guys that were involved in the game, making decisions. I want to say that Teddy Roosevelt, you know, I mean, inside, not on the outside, like the critics around here. This guy’s got a book out I went a long time have more we got a mutual, a bunch of mutual friends, football done right is the book just in time for the NFL season. I’m getting all my author pals. Oh, Mike Lombardi is up there in any he’s any other ancient city, the Ocean City, we’re in no trick, nothing up here in Jersey. He has run football teams and has a book and really is a football historian as much as anything. What are you doing Mike Lombardi? And how’s it taking me? Let’s see. 27 years now with the Ravens. You almost came here you were five minutes away. You and Bella checking those guys back in? 96. Right.
Mike Lombardi 01:00
Yeah, we were close. I mean, but Bella check, and I both knew we weren’t gonna get there. And you know, and so it worked out better for all of us. So anyway, I think for the great Ozzie Newsome, who we were fortunate to be within, in Cleveland when he came when he stopped being a player moved up. So, look, it’s great. It’s it’s, you know, it’s part of the league, you accept that and move on. But, yeah, it’s worked out fairly well. For me. I’ve enjoyed it. And I enjoy talking about writing. So writing has kind of been something that I’ve really enjoyed doing the last couple of years, I wrote gridiron genius, which was a book about really, culture was a book about belcheck and Walsh, and this books about the history of the NFL.
Nestor Aparicio 01:40
Oh, I’m an author myself, all my books have parades and happy endings here with championships and Purple Rain wanting to but well, you know, when you sit down to write a book, and I’m a writer, and I’ve been writing a lot, I wrote a letter to John Harbaugh. This week, a letter to Steve shouting, I hope everybody reads that out of Baltimore positive, writing a letter to Adam Jones as well, who’s getting retired here this week. But when you think about a book or a concept is this literally you mean you’re not a right? You’re not a New York Times bestseller? It’s not what you hear a football guy, you have a football idea. And then you want to get a book written? And conceptually, football done. Right? What does that mean? Because you mean yet you have to have a theory for all this to get going. Right?
Mike Lombardi 02:17
Right. So I wanted to tell the story about where all coaches come from, you know, where are the coaches? What’s the coaching tree, you’ve been a part of how you start that, and I thought there were five guys, five coaches that really defined the coaching era, going starting with Paul Brown, who was the really Paul Brown was the the infrastructure. He was the software for the coaches. He was the Bill Gates of coaches. He developed the software. He’s the reason why we have the profession of coaching. And he modernized the game and he took the game and the coaching from being a guy that we had a whistle and a can of water, and all of a sudden it became a profession. Watch tape headsets communicate to the players teach the players call me, Paul. Don’t call me coach. I’m a teacher. And then you know, we have the great Sid Gillman in the passing game. And then of course, Clark Shaughnessy, which we would not have a forward pass if it wasn’t for Clark Shaughnessy, he invented the T formation and put the quarterback to the role that we remember the quarterback today. And then Earl red Blake all the way back to Dartmouth and West Point where he you know, was one of the great coaches and the lonely end where he took the formation and he took it and and made the split end. He’s the creator of the split end, we would not have receivers, we wouldn’t have Randy Moss wouldn’t have Jerry Rice, without Earl red Blake. So I talked about all those guys in the book. And then I tried to write the coaches and try to put a criteria on what is a Hall of Fame coach, right? What makes a Hall of Fame coach, how do you get into the Hall of Fame? You know, do you win one Super Bowl and get in the Hall of Fame? Do you win to the win? Do you win 300 games to get in how do you do it? There’s no criteria. I mean, you look at it and I write about now I’m not trying to knock anybody out of a hall of fame but you know did for meals got a 52% winning percentage. And a lot of guys that have a higher winning percentage than him are not in the Hall of Fame. Marty Schottenheimer is an example he’s got 200 wins only nine men in the in the in the industry. Dan Reeves be in the ninth and he you have to count his playoff wins to get to 200 have 200 wins. There’s been over 500 people have called themselves coaches. So if you’re one of nine, and a pool of 500 and some you’re pretty rare air you belong in the home they say well Marnie win a Super Bowl. Okay, well, that’s good. George Allen didn’t win a Super Bowl either. Marty’s got a 61% winning percentage, he can’t get a sniff in the Hall of Fame. So that’s what that’s what the book was driven about. And then I wanted to tell the story about you know, how we got here, you know, as a kid growing up in Ocean City, New Jersey, which by the way, I want to correct that. It is the driest wet town in the history of dry town. So I can promise you that there’s more alcohol on the island without the bars than there is We had bars. But anyway, so here, it makes
Nestor Aparicio 05:03
me want to visit. Thank you. I appreciate that. I’ve always stayed away from that choice. I think
Mike Lombardi 05:08
you’ll ever come to a straw town. So Howard Cosell watching Monday Night Football as a kid the impact that had had on me. You don’t want a lot of guys in the entertainment industry. They talk about the impact of Elvis Presley seeing him on the The Ed Sullivan Show or the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. All the people that watch that said, oh, I want to be an entertainer. Watching Monday Night Football live, you know, was incredible for a young kid who grew up at Ocean City and to be able to watch a full football game of some teams that you don’t get to see because it was either the Eagles or no one was a powerful tool and cosell being the commentator drove everybody crazy because 50% love what he said and 50% hated. And then he had Brent Musburger on the NFL today with Jimmy the Greek, talking about really betting but advancing the game. So I wanted to kind of get that Greek.
Nestor Aparicio 06:06
I mean, it was just the intangibles. It was just the intangibles. The way
Mike Lombardi 06:10
they set that up was fascinating. If you when you read my book, you’ll see how that came about. And you know the whole thing about what this generation doesn’t understand. But back then, we didn’t have we didn’t have iPhones.
Nestor Aparicio 06:24
We didn’t we didn’t have sports center. Let’s stop with that. I mean, Howard Cosell was interesting to me. I had Dan Passerini on last week. Well, it’s also an author. His books being rereleased with John McClane as well. I brought his jersey out with the Euler blue because I was in Oilers fan back even with Bert Jones was here in Baltimore. And I saw Passerini play on the football against Bert Jones get smoked before it was the road to getting the Earl Campbell draft pick that year. How awful they were. And I mean football. I mean the color the pageantry, but those highlights were only available Monday Night Football. And when you and I were kids, we had to stay awake to watch it right?
Mike Lombardi 07:01
If your mom and dad lets you stay awake, like my mother wouldn’t let me stay because like you gotta go to bed and I had to
Nestor Aparicio 07:06
go I had a monkey Ward’s on a white TV with rabbit ears is what I had.
Mike Lombardi 07:10
I had to sneak out to go watch it. Yeah, and I had to sneak past their bedroom to make sure they you know and then and all I cared about all I could I grew up. I grew up a Redskin fan.
Nestor Aparicio 07:19
Ah, you saw what you did suffer you actually were happy been suffering at that time I was
Mike Lombardi 07:23
and so I all I wanted to know was where they were at because I love those old uniforms. I love that that burgundy and gold combination. You know, the helmet that George Allen design, I thought it was beautiful. The one with the R on it that Lombardi designed I loved I went there. I became a fan because the Lombardi when the body left the Packers, I became a Washington fan. So
Nestor Aparicio 07:44
I’m related except so you’re not related
Mike Lombardi 07:46
at all, but I wanted to know what color uniforms they weren’t the game. Did they wear the white jerseys? Do they wear the burgundy jerseys? Because you didn’t know? You had no idea? You know, I’d say it’s so fascinating how it changed right? In America, in Baltimore, particularly in Baltimore. bowling leagues on Monday night were the most popular thing in America. Everybody had a bowling shirt, a bowling ball. And Monday night there were bowling leagues all throughout Baltimore and America. Monday Night Football came on at 71. And that destroyed bowling leagues throughout the country. People stayed home to watch the game. Increased bars bar started showing the games on their TV. All of a sudden attendance went up. Miller Brewing Company was a local brewery. They were a local brewery. They were not on, you know, happy days and all that they were local Milwaukee Brewing Company like you saw on Happy days. And they took an ad out on Monday Night Football, and all of a sudden they became a national brand. That’s the power of Monday Night Football. That’s how big it was. It was huge tonight to any night on Monday night you watch Monday Night Football. You don’t realize how big it was in the 70s. Hey,
Nestor Aparicio 08:58
Mike, I hear art modell may have had a little role in that you’re gonna you’re gonna pile on and say that, that art Talbot Hall of Fame. I mean, come on now. I mean, I’m in Baltimore. Here. I printed up in duct art signs. That hasn’t happened either. And, you know, for whatever arts flaws one way and I like art to lots of the game and Monday Night Football is LinkedIn.
Mike Lombardi 09:21
They did it. I wrote about art in the book and I talked about art. I think the problem I have Bart’s move to Baltimore should not keep him from getting in the Hall of Fame in the Monday night. The idea for Monday night, you know, art was a nervous wreck that Monday night. There was a you know, because he thought it was going to affect his attendance at Cleveland stadium. He felt like no fans would show up. They would just watch the game on TV. They had the biggest crowd in the history of Cleveland stadium that Monday night he goes to see Joe Namath play, right? Yeah, they wanted to watch Nemeth play and they you know, it was Monday night it was a it was a beautifully hot humid day in September in Cleveland, but our you know, for all of our great things he was rather impatient with coaches. You know, three of the top winningest coaches in the history of the sport are fired.
Nestor Aparicio 10:10
Right. Brown Bella check and Schottenheimer. Yeah,
Mike Lombardi 10:13
brown Bella check and shot. I mean, if you fire three of the greatest coaches of all time, it’s kind of hard for you to have enough clout to get in the hall no matter what you
Nestor Aparicio 10:21
did. Give me some Baltimore because like I you know, Ernie Accorsi, right. We talked about Baltimore, George Young, all of these beautiful people that were you know, but on my show, I’ve been on the air 32 years, Mike, it’s taking a long time to get in here. But it Baltimore has such a incredibly rich history in this league, and are being pissed upon for doing what he did to Cleveland, which left everything behind. They had a couple of years out of the league. They’ve been back in the league 25 years, what he did for Baltimore, and putting us back on the map and 27 years later, two rings. You know, Ray Lewis, straight on through Jonathan straight on through Ozzie Newsome and talk about, you know, bust in the Hall of Fame. There’s a movement here to to get Ozzy in as as an administrator as well. Baltimore maple, mass salon. All right, Pittsburgh, Cleveland. Baltimore’s right in there.
Mike Lombardi 11:18
Well, I mean, look, you look at my book. I mean, I talked about Baltimore with a lot of Baltimore players in it. Raymond Barry, John Mackey. You know, the I don’t think people realize how great Lenny Moore was as a player. And the role he played people talking about Tony Pollard today, being a great player, which he is letting more was Tony Pollard before Tony Pollard thought about it. There’s a lot of great coaches and players that have come through that there’s great history in the city of Baltimore. And I talk about that in my book and having worked with Ernie, you know, and having been there with them, then, you know, I know about it, because I already was a historian of the game as well. So
Nestor Aparicio 11:53
it wasn’t going to trade our way. I’m telling you, the old man did that. So every time I ever early on, he always
Mike Lombardi 11:59
I can verify you that you know, I I did not get into the depths of that I wrote that. And because my book was kind of long, it was over 100,000 words. We did have to do some trimming. But let me tell you the story about that. So Al Davis thought he had to trade. Now he didn’t think he had to trade with Ernie because Ernie was adamant that he wasn’t going to trade Burchett that we’re going to trade the Olympic he was going to stay in fight to the bitter end, he was not going to let it happen. And Ernie was had a relationship with them off the agent. But aren’t moda excuse me, Al Davis really believed he had Elway he was going to trade with the Chicago Bears, he was going to give them Teddy watts. He was going to move up to about the sixth or seventh pick in the draft and then then go from there and give a boatload of stuff to Baltimore to flip to the first pick. But in that boatload of stuff, didn’t have money, you could trade money back in the day. And the reason that Denver was able to get them is because a Marvin dem off and the the general manager of the Denver Broncos, John Veeck were very close friends. And when they negotiated the deal, bobber say was promised to gates in the preseason and Denver. And back then we didn’t share the revenue of preseason games like they do today. Back then every preseason game was based on your attendance based on your season tickets based on people that come so some teams had no revenue, and some teams had incredible revenue. So what teams tried to do is hey, you know, the Giants always had great season ticket base. So let me play you in the preseason because they put that in there. So you would get a good game. Now that’s changed. And that was part of the deal. That was the deal. That was the clincher Denver gave them to preseason game which was essentially given the money.
Nestor Aparicio 13:48
Barber say what a what a legacy. Mike Lombardi series written a book on the history of the game. He has a story in the book is called football dunrite, setting the record straight on the coaches, players and history of the National Football League and the AFL going on. I mean, you know,
Mike Lombardi 14:02
that sure, they’ll players in there, a lot of it, talk about it quite a bit, you know, and the discrimination that caused the AFL to be great, and how they were able to really make a contribution to because they were they were able to go after app, they were gonna go after African American players. And it wasn’t until 46 that the NFL really broke the color barrier completely in football when the city of Los Angeles told the Cleveland franchise. When you move here, we if you want to play in Los Angeles, if you want to play in the Coliseum, you will have an African American on your team because they built the stadium. The residents of Los Angeles are African American, they’re Asian. They’re all sorts of different ethnicities, and they need to be represented on the team. And so the Cleveland team sign which then became the Rams they signed Kenny Washington well past his prime he was a great use. La Playa, just so that they could have it and then that kind of permeated, and we were able to start getting African American players back in the NFL. But the AFL did a great job of going to those small black schools and finding great players.
Nestor Aparicio 15:13
Yeah, John Eisenberg on earlier this week, you can go check his book as well. I wore my Warren Moon jersey for that one because it’s on the cover just about black quarterbacks and and the path and the racism and football racism in baseball world where that right I mean, just talk to anybody talk to anybody that played.
Mike Lombardi 15:32
They just built they’re building a brand new facility in Kansas City. Look, this I when I said this to you earlier, I don’t I’m not trying to hurt anybody who’s in the Hall of Fame except one man. George Preston Marshall, the owner of the Washington football team. He really does. He really created a big movement to keep African Americans out of the game. And for him to be in the hall was an injustice.
Nestor Aparicio 15:56
Yeah, I don’t think he’s any doubt about that. So with the book, being out here kicking off football season, is there anything you want to say globally about Lamar and just about the Ravens? I mean, hardball with the pedigree coach, this thing their staff, they get injured early, but Lamar,
Mike Lombardi 16:12
I love Lamar, I’ve loved my, you know, I have ever not a relationship with Mullaghmore. I’ve watched Lamar for a long time. My son was an assistant coach at Louisville. When Lamar was a sophomore, and I watched Lamar struggle. He played but he struggled. He wasn’t very good. And then I watched him play against Texas a&m And in a bowl game, they ended that year and he was great. The next year he won the Heisman. I think Lamar is exceptional. I think Lamar is like a lot of great quarterbacks, there’s spots on the field, that he needs to throw the ball in. And that’s the inside. That’s why the best year he had in the league was when he had Mark Andrews, and he had Hunter, Hayden Hearst, two guys that caught the ball inside the numbers. That’s where Lamar makes his success. When you throw the ball outside the numbers, he’s not as effective. But he inside the numbers and I think he belongs under center more, because there’s only one play in football, one playing football where the quarterback clock somebody and that’s on the bootleg. And so when you bring them on fake ahead and you give a handoff, take a handoff to the back or you give the ball to the back and you come out this way. Somebody’s gonna come with you every time. So you’re finally blocking somebody. I just don’t know if and I’ll wait to see as the year globally goes on how the offense fits. Uh, but I think the offense needs to be tailored around his game.
Nestor Aparicio 17:30
Did you hate the Roman thing at the end? I mean
Mike Lombardi 17:35
I did not like any of it because there was no drop back pass game there was no real there was nothing was tied together. For me. It was a really good run game. It was a single way offense but nothing was tied together.
Nestor Aparicio 17:47
Mike I wish you luck on the book. I hope you come back at some point talk some more football with us here and continue to educate us football done right. The book is up by Michael Lombardi longtime GM Writer, Historian Jersey guy all of that stuff and hey man, Happy New Year to you and good luck with the book and we’ll get together talks more football sometime down the line. All right.
Mike Lombardi 18:06
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Nestor Aparicio 18:08
Appreciate it. Michael party joining us here Luke is at the ballpark Luke is also in Owings Mills each and every day getting ready for ravens football here this week. We’re putting Maryland crabcake tour together now sponsor with a new sponsor Jiffy Lube, as well as our friends at the mayor louder be giving away there’s ravens scratch offs, as well as our friends when donation 866 90 days you can find the whole schedule up at Baltimore positive.com Stay with us