Note: I know the Jason Campbell issue has been beaten up pretty good around here as well as other places, so in lieu of writing my own article about it, I give you that headline (which is also my opinion), and the interview that follows. (LJP did not contribute to this piece.)
If you watch the NFL Network, you have surely seen Mike Lombardi at work, offering his analysis and opinions on all matters (He also appears on CBS sometimes.) His NFL experience includes working with names like Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Marty Schottenheimer, and Mike Shanahan. He served as the head of the personnel departments in Oakland and Cleveland, and has worked for or with the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Denver Broncos.
I started hitting Mike up for questions on all things football back when I was writing columns for The Ahern Inquirer (our motto there: "Discovering the obvious.") He figured me out fast. I remember calling him once and he answered the phone saying, "Ken, you better not have a 90,000 question interview for me this time. The last one you sent over was brutal."
But he has hung in there with me and why not? He did grow up a Redskins fan after all. I had the chance to speak to him this week about the latest and greatest happenings in these parts.
HH: So you are a Redskins fan? Or were a Redskins fan?
ML: "I grew up a Redskins fan, but when the 49ers hired me in 1984, I began to learn how to become a fan of the team I was working for. So I was a fan of a number of teams over the years."
(Man...not sure I could ever do that. I love watching games and I even openly root for teams in games that the Skins are not involved in, but I have serious doubts that I could change my allegiance.)
HH: You worked with Mike Shanahan as a consultant in 2007 it looks like. Based on your experience working with him, do you think he can peacefully coexist in this franchise's setup? What is your impression of him as a coach?
ML: When I was fired from the Raiders, Mike brought me in to help him out in Denver. He coaches all phases of the game. He is a true head coach. While he is an offensive-minded guy, he is very effective coaching all facets of the game. He is organized, very smart, and well-prepared, and has a command of the game on both sides of the ball.
HH: Speculation is rampant around here that the Skins are going to take a quarterback in the first round. Do you think that is a good decision and do you see that as actually going down? Our offensive line could really use some help.
ML: Both areas [offensive line and quarterback] are going to have to be addressed. A high offensive line draft pick is going to affect how you play next season, while a quarterback in that spot is going to affect how you play in two seasons from now and beyond. When you draft that high, it costs a lot of resources, so you want an impact player for your organization. I do think at some point in this draft, they will bring in a quarterback to develop.
HH: Do you think Mike Shanahan will embrace our strength at tight end and run sets that utilize both of them the majority of the time? Fred Davis and Chris Cooley are both capable of shining.
ML: Both guys work with what Shanahan likes to do. They both fit in the kind of offense he and Kyle like to run. Look at Owen Daniels down in Houston, and some of the tight ends that Mike had in Denver. I think both Fred Davis and Chris Cooley contribute to the kind of versatility the Shanahans like to employ in their passing game.
HH: Can Mike Shanahan and the Redskins win with Jason Campbell?
ML: The beauty of Mike Shanahan is that he will scheme a game plan around Jason Campbell's strengths. The best way to win is to have your players and team playing to their strengths. He can win with Jason Campbell.
HH: Did we (finally) get the right man for the job?
ML: I think Mike's a winner. He'll win no matter where he is. He is adaptable and smart. Yeah, I think he will be successful there. It will take drafting and building on good players, and reconfiguring that offensive line, but yeah, I think the Redskins got a great coach.
When we spoke about drafting a quarterback at #4, his comment about the cost and resources sunk into a high first round pick resonated with me. When you think about how much a quarterback means to an NFL team, matching up top-5 draft pick resources to that position does start to make sense. Yet I still think we should rebuild the offensive line first. I think the resources spent on a cornerstone LT are just as well-spent.
Lombardi's tone when I asked him his impressions of Shanahan as a coach was almost reverent. He clearly has a lot of respect for the way he operates and runs his team.
Finally, the Jason Campbell issue...as I said above, we have destroyed this topic, but his comments were encouraging. The idea that a coach would come in and build a strategy around existing players/personnel...that is just crazy enough to work!
Please check out Mike Lombardi's Diner News column over at the National Football Post. They are doing some great stuff over there.