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Monday, June 11, 2012

Banner Day Nothing to Celebrate for Eagles Fans


          Joe Banner is gone. Whether he was fired, pushed out, or walked away to pursue other opportunities, still doesn’t seem entirely clear, though the consensus of the media appears to be that he’s gone as a result of one of the first two options.

          The result of Banner being gone, however, appears to be crystal clear. Andy Reid is now alone and as secure as possible at the helm of the Eagles organization.

          And no Eagles fans should be happy.

          On the surface, I think it was actually a good move for the Eagles to remove Banner. He was part of the regime that put money above winning, projected an air of superiority despite having never won a championship, and doesn’t connect with the fans. When the news broke, former players couldn’t wait to go on the radio and tell everyone what a horrible guy Banner was to deal with in contract negotiations. Plenty of fans reacted as though they finally got the change they have been clamoring for.

          Banner never should have been put in front of the media as one of the faces of the Eagles. He’s a businessman and, quite frankly, never understood Philadelphia fans nor how to communicate with them. As whiny as guys like Tre Thomas and Brian Westbrook sounded on Thursday – the Eagles are still a business and of course they wanted to get contracts done for as little as possible – Banner clearly didn’t have the tact needed to handle player contract negotiations.

          Yet besides a potentially happier locker room, nothing has really changed about this team. Banner didn’t lose all those NFC Championships. Banner didn’t coach the team in the Super Bowl loss. He isn’t the one trying to establish the pass in order to run, the completely ass backwards way this team calls offensive plays.

          In fact, as crazy as it sounds, Banner might have been the voice of reason within the organization about Reid. Everybody remembers his comment about the definition of insanity a few years back after another playoff defeat. Rumors are running rampant that Banner’s ouster is the result of losing a power struggle with Reid. A few media members are even suggesting that Banner was the one guy who, gasp, questioned the ridiculous move of making Juan Castillo the defensive coordinator.

          The timing of the move, the fact that Banner is interested in moving to another team, and the business as usual attitude of Jeff Lurie, all support the rumors that this was the result of a power struggle. Football teams don’t fire their presidents in June. They certainly don’t do it as a precursor to firing the head coach.

          I think this is classic Lurie thinking he can do things his way and look like a genius when all the while he looks like an idiot.       He trotted out his usual absurdities about the organization at the press conference, trying to paint a picture of the Eagles’ offices bursting with brilliant young executives who needed a chance to grow. The company line is that Banner is looking for the next challenge, and his protégé, Don Smolenski, has already taken the reigns in a seamless transition.

          Bull. As usual, Lurie thinks he can simply create reality by saying words.

          First of all, to state the unbelievably obvious, there’s no reason for Banner to be looking for a new challenge when he’s never completed the one he had been working on – helping the Eagles win a Super Bowl. Of course, every move Lurie makes clearly indicates that winning a Super Bowl isn’t a primary goal of the organization.

          In his infinite arrogance, Lurie talked about the promotion of Smolenski as nothing more than the implementation of a succession plan. The NFL doesn’t work that way. NFL teams constantly pluck front office staff away from each other. If Smolenski was a rising star as a de facto general manager, which is the role Banner filled, he would have been gone long ago to another team. Lurie really thinks fans buy that this guy sat at Banner’s feet like a good dog until he got the pat on the head to “go get ‘em, boy?”

          Lurie even admitted that the Eagles now have the structure that almost every other team in the NFL employs – a GM, which is Howie Roseman, and a coach. (Duh, ‘bout time.) Smolenski isn’t taking over for Banner, at least not in Banner’s role as the guy that negotiates with players. He’s presumably the money man, and, if Lurie’s learned anything, Smolenski will be kept behind the scenes.

          Roseman has been here for years, and he didn’t change anything. Does he suddenly have the authority to fire Reid? No. Does Smolenski? Hell, no.

          In fact, reports are that Roseman aligned himself with Reid once he saw that the coach was winning the power struggle. There was even the report months ago that Reid demanded more control. Obviously, he got it, despite all the denials.

          So, to paraphrase President Bartlett in The West Wing, you get Reid.

          Unfortunately, no dead secretary is coming back to change Lurie’s mind. Of course, the choice Lurie was apparently making was all wrong anyway. I’m not buying that Reid was stomping his feet every time a Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Duce Staley, Jeremiah Trotter, Hugh Douglas, etc., was allowed to walk away. Reid stuck by Donovan McNabb too long. Reid wants Mike Vick as his quarterback.

          Reid needed to be sent packing along with Banner back in January. In fact, he should have been fired years ago.

          Instead, after 13 years of never winning a Super Bowl, he’s seemingly been relieved of the one guy in the organization who was questioning him.

          It’s amazing that after almost two decades in the NFL, Lurie still has no clue that owning the Eagles should look nothing like owning any other billion dollar business. He still doesn’t get that no one outside of the NovaCare Complex gives a damn about how smoothly things run in his office.

          He certainly doesn’t get that the only real success an NFL franchise can tally up is the number of Lombardi trophies they possess.

          Lurie cares about things like succession plans and what he perceives to be stability. It’s the only possible explanation for removing the apparent lone voice of protest against keeping Reid as the head coach. In fact, it now seems clearer than ever that Reid will coach the Eagles as long as he wants and may even pick the next head coach as Banner’s real successor.

          A friend of mine essentially asked if I was regretting my decision to abandon my fandom of the Eagles, thinking like some others that Banner’s exit was greasing the skids for Reid. Once the dust settled, I was never more confident in my decision.

          Andy Reid can’t win a Super Bowl. Jeff Lurie measures success by equations that don’t include championships. And Eagles fans have just seen the path laid out for those two idiots to run the franchise for an indefinite period of time.

          Nothing has changed with Banner’s exit for the Eagles. To the contrary, the stretch of never winning a Super Bowl seems as secure as Reid’s future with the team.

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