Lions to hire Saints' Lombardi as offensive coordinator

This is a 2009 photo of Joe Lombardi of the New Orleans Saints football team. This image reflects the New Orleans Saints roster as of June 5th and 6th of 2009 when this image was taken. (AP Photo) Show caption
This is a 2009 photo of Joe Lombardi of the New Orleans Saints football team. This image reflects the New Orleans Saints roster as of June 5th and 6th of 2009 when this image was taken. (AP Photo)

MOBILE, Ala. — Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis knew it was just a matter of time before someone lured quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi away. It was under Lombardi’s tutelage that Drew Brees posted three of his four 5,000-yard seasons.

Then, Tuesday, it happened — the Detroit Lions said they plan to hire Lombardi to be their new offensive coordinator.

“It’s a natural course of business when you’ve been successful with a head coach the caliber of Sean Payton,” said Loomis, speaking at a Reese’s Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile. “Obviously, teams want a piece of that. We’ve had a number of guys move on and do well — and that’s going to continue to happen.

“We’ll go out and we’ll find real good replacements. And then we’ll lose them, too.”

Lombardi will join the staff of Jim Caldwell, who last week was hired to replace fired head coach Jim Schwartz. He spent the past seven seasons with the Saints, and for five of those he was the quarterbacks coach.

It certainly seemed like it would be a tough proposition this offseason for the Saints to retain Lombardi, the grandson of Green Bay Packers coaching legend Vince Lombardi. He oversaw the quarterback position as Brees became the only player in the NFL to have more than one season passing for 5,000 or more yards.

Four other players have thrown for 5,000 or more yards in a season once, and one of them is Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford, with whom Lombardi will now work. Stafford threw for 5,038 yards in 2011.

Lombardi played at Air Force from 1991 to 1993. He worked at Dayton, Virginia Military Institute, Bucknell, the XFL, Mercyhurst and for the Falcons before joining the Saints in 2007.

He was in his first year as the Saints’ QB coach when New Orleans defeated Caldwell’s Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. He’s the latest in a string of Saints coaches under Payton to leave the team for high-profile positions elsewhere.

Dennis Allen was the Saints’ secondary coach, but became the Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2011 and then became the head coach of the Raiders in 2012. Doug Marrone left his offensive coordinator post toward the end of 2008 to become the head coach of Syracuse, and last season he became the head coach of the Bills. Aaron Kromer left his offensive line coach position after 2012 to become the Bears’ offensive coordinator. Curtis Johnson was the wide receivers coach but left to be head coach of Tulane in 2012.

Loomis said he likes that Payton’s coaching tree has sprouted so many branches.

“It means two things,” Loomis said. “It means you’re hiring the right guys and you’ve been successful.”

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen first reported the Lions’ hiring of Lombardi on Tuesday morning.