The Cleveland Browns announced the hiring of Michael Lombardi as vice president of player personnel Jan. 18.
Then security led Lombardi to his office and locked the door. He hasn't been seen or heard from since.
The next time Lombardi surfaces for a press conference, for all we know he might have shoulder-length hair and two-inch fingernails. It's assumed he's getting food and water and is allowed visits from family members.
Former Browns owner Randy Lerner was criticized for a self-imposed reclusive style. In a different twist on things, Lombardi is being forced into seclusion on the whims of president and CEO Joe Banner.
Banner's logic when asked recently about Lombardi's mysterious disappearance was that it's better to keep a lightning rod of criticism as far as possible from the laptops of reporters. The last thing Banner wants in the transition period of leadership is negative press.
One can only hope that Banner makes better decisions in the future. The thought that secluding Lombardi from the media because of who he was 20 years ago is absurd. Didn't we cross that bridge when he admitted to his character faults of the past at his introductory press conference?
You don't have to have CEO in front of your name to know that the best way to handle a controversial and polarizing personality like Lombardi is to put him front and center. His actions will either prove or disprove that he is a changed man. Barring something major, the best guess is that within months no one will care about Lombardi's past.
Instead, Banner continues to treat Lombardi as if he's in a witness-protection program. Stops at a Giant Eagle or dining establishments must be done in cloak-and-dagger style.
The bigger concern is the power that Banner is apparently wielding. Owner James Haslam has handed more than the keys to the car to Banner. He's given him the entry code to the house.
You have to wonder how much Banner is leaning into every department at the team facility. Is his imprint on the players who have been signed in free agency the last two weeks? Will he be sitting at the head of the draft table next month?
By his own admission Banner isn't a "football guy." He's not going to spend much time looking at charts containing 40 times and vertical leaps, but he might be the person that asks a prospect why he took a gun to the fraternity party in the first place.
Lombardi, who has since been promoted to general manager, is expected to be the point man on all player personnel decisions. If Jim Nantz of "CBS Sports" is correct, the Browns have the right man for that role. Nantz claims that Patriots coach Bill Belichick thinks Lombardi is one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL.
That's all I would need to hear to trust Lombardi as the primary decision-maker. Apparently Haslam and Banner feel the same way. Why else would they have stood squarely in the face of media and fan criticism and hired Lombardi?
There's no reason to think that Banner would usurp Lombardi's job requirements with a power play. Then again, no one really knows much about Banner's past other than what we've read in the Philadelphia papers.
Fans need to trust Banner for one simple reason he's the only person that knows where Lombardi is located.