Patriots hire Mike Lombardi

Former Cleveland Browns general manager Mike Lombardi has been hired by the New England Patriots as an assistant to the coaching staff, the team announced Thursday.

Lombardi traveled with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, vice president of player personnel Nick Caserio and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the NFL combine in Indianapolis. His connection with Belichick goes back to the early 1990s, when Belichick was the Browns' coach and Lombardi worked on Cleveland's personnel staff.

"Mike has a lot of experience. He's done a lot of things in his career in the NFL [and] I'm sure he'll be doing many of those things for us," Belichick said at the NFL combine. "We'll see how it goes."

Belichick lauded Lombardi in December prior to the Patriots' game against Cleveland.

"I think [he's] excellent," Belichick said. "He's thorough, he's smart, he understands football. He understands not just personnel, but schemes and how certain players fit into certain schemes better than others because of the responsibilities in those schemes; the type of plays or the type of system that coaches run.

"There are obviously a lot of different coaches in this league, different coaches in college, so that affects the performance of the players -- some good, some bad, depending on how they fit into that particular system. I think he has a very good understanding of that, which is important for personnel people to understand, just like it is for coaches to understand personnel."

That linkage seems to be a big part of what Lombardi will add to the Patriots, as his official title puts him more under the coaching umbrella than the personnel staff, which is led by Caserio and director of college scouting Jon Robinson.