A few quick-hit thoughts on the Patriots' addition of Michael Lombardi as an assistant to the coaching staff:
1. Player-evaluation acumen in Patriots' system: Two months ago, when Bill Belichick was discussing why he respects Lombardi's work, he spoke of Lombardi's understanding of personnel and his knowledge of schemes and how players fit into certain schemes better than others. For any scout, coach or assistant to work under Belichick, the first thing is to know what he wants in this regard. Lombardi does, which goes back two decades to the early 1990s when he was on the Browns' personnel staff when Belichick was head coach. I also think Lombardi views value in the same way as Belichick, as evidenced by the shrewd Trent Richardson trade this past season.
2. Carefully crafted job title: The Patriots' personnel staff is in good hands with vice president of player personnel Nick Caserio, director of college scouting Jon Robinson and director of pro scouting Bob Quinn in top roles. But the presence of Lombardi could be viewed as threatening to them and others, which is why the title of "assistant to the coaching staff" was notable to me. It puts Lombardi under the coaching umbrella more than the personnel staff.
3. Another voice to challenge Belichick: One line of thinking is that Belichick could benefit from a veteran voice who isn't afraid to challenge him, similar to former personnel chief Scott Pioli or someone like former coordinators Romeo Crennel/Charlie Weis on the coaching side. Lombardi's experience, and Belichick's respect for him, puts him in position to possibly be that type of presence as well as a sounding board of sorts.
4. Why it didn't happen before: Belichick could have hired Lombardi in the past but didn't, so that's one question that comes to mind: Why now and not before? Perhaps that's something Belichick will address at his news conference later today at the NFL combine. I wouldn't be surprised to hear Belichick say he would have hired Lombardi last year if Lombardi hadn't been hired as Browns general manager.