Lombardi grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey and played both baseball and football at Valley Forge Military Academy. He attended Hofstra University in from 1977-1981, where he played defensive lineman and long snapper for the football team.
In 1981, Lombardi was hired as a recruiting coordinator at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas by Rebels' head coach Harvey Hyde.
Lombardi began his NFL career in 1984 as an area scout under Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers, where he stayed until 1987.
Lombardi joined the Cleveland Browns organization as Pro Personnel Director in 1987. Later, he became the Browns' Director of Player Personnel and worked under head coach Bill Belichick managing drafts, negotiating contracts and acquiring free agents.
In 1997, Philadelphia Eagles President Joe Banner hired Lombardi as a consultant to assist with the 1997 NFL draft. Banner then named Lombardi Director of Pro Personnel of the Eagles in 1998.
Later that same year, Lombardi was hired by Al Davis to serve as Senior Personnel Executive of the Oakland Raiders, a position which he held until 2007. During his tenure with the Raiders, Oakland won three consecutive AFC West titles and advanced to Super Bowl XXXVII.
In October 2012, sportswriter Jason La Canfora reported that Lombardi was being considered by the Browns for the vacancy at General Manager, a position he was hired for less than five months later. On February 11, 2014 Lombardi was replaced by Ray Farmer.
From 2014 to 2016, Lombardi worked under Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots as an assistant to the coaching staff. Speaking about Lombardi's time in New England, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, "Mike’s...one of the smartest people I’ve worked with. He was huge asset to me for the two years he was here...he studies football and he knows it very well."
Lombardi has worked as an administrator in the NFL for over 30 years and has worked for Bill Walsh, Al Davis and Bill Belichick. Sports and pop culture essayist Chuck Klosterman described Lombardi as, "a detail freak and a polymath," after spending time with him at the Cleveland Browns facility in the hours leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft. Lombardi has also been described as, "one of the most quiet but influential executives in the NFL." He has been credited as one of the first NFL executives to study the science of scouting players for moral character.
As a broadcaster, Lombardi has worked for ESPN, CBS Sports, Showtime, the NFL Network and Fox Sports. He began his career as a member of the media in 1996 when he spent part of that year as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN. He also spent portions of 1998 and 1999 as an editorial consultant and studio analyst for CBS Sports as on-air talent for the NFL Today pre-game show.
In 2008, Lombardi joined NFL Films' Inside the NFL, a weekly Showtime show, where he provided analysis alongside host James Brown and former NFL players Cris Collinsworth, Phil Simms and Warren Sapp. That same year, Lombardi began contributing to several NFL Network shows, including as an in-studio analyst and reporting live from individual games.
Lombardi was hired by Fox Sports in September 2016. When he joined Fox, national networks president Jamie Horowitz said in a statement, “Michael is a thought-provoking and insightful football analyst with an impressive résumé. We feel like his blunt approach and original perspective makes the FS1 shows more interesting, and the fans of those shows more informed.”
In 2010, after working as on-air talent at the NFL Network for two years, Lombardi began writing columns for NFL.com, duties he performed until 2012. Lombardi has also contributed writing to Sports Illustrated and the National Football Post, the latter of which he founded and served as editor-in-chief for three years. In January 2017, Lombardi took a position with The Ringer.
Lombardi is not related to Green Bay Packers coaching legend Vince Lombardi. He is an avid reader with an interest in Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon B. Johnson. He and his wife, Millie, have two sons and own two Lagotto Romagnolo dogs.