Let that one roll around in your head for a second.
" . . . at the same time, we're here to win a championship. That needs to be part of the equation, too."
What does it mean?
What does it mean, after 12 years?
I think it means Andy is on the clock.
Which is not to say that Reid must win this year, assuming this year happens (the labor gods willing). It might not mean he must win next year, either. If nothing else, there is plenty of room to maneuver here. But even with all of the nice things Banner said, it does not seem conceivable that Reid will receive a contract extension if he does not win a Super Bowl.
Because that was the essence of the question with which Banner was presented yesterday, sitting at a conference table at the NovaCare Complex, facing about a dozen reporters. It was Banner's first on-the-record session since the season ended. It took place on the day quarterback Michael Vick was designated as the Eagles' franchise player and kicker David Akers was made a transition player - preliminary moves in an unsettled labor world.
But the half-hour interview meandered, which is what tends to happen. Amid that, the question about Reid and his contract and the need to contend for Super Bowls was asked.
"I think it's a fair question - it's just not constructive to get into a hypothetical," Banner said. Then he talked for a while. The rest of his answer is 264 words, but it is worth presenting without interruption.
With that, Banner said:
"I think you guys all know, we have a very high opinion of Andy as a person and as a coach. That doesn't mean to imply that he's perfect. He would tell you that himself, there's criticism that's fair.
"But we attracted a group of coaches here that would never have come if it wasn't for somebody like Andy being the head coach . . . We attract players that want to play here because Andy's the head coach. There's only three teams in the league that have made the playoffs the last 3 years. We're not satisfied that we only got to the first round. At the same time, we're not willing to pretend that isn't an accomplishment.
"The future will be determined when we get there. But whatever criticism it leads to, there's nobody in any decision-making position in this organization that isn't going to tell you we have a very, very high opinion of Andy Reid . . .
"We think that the quality of leadership is a crucial, crucial part of evaluating head coaches, and if you look at the ones that have been really successful, they're all tremendous leaders. So you can sit there and critique: Did we take the right timeout, or this or that? Andy's leadership skills and his ability, year after year, to rally players to play hard, play together, play selflessly - which is such a difficult challenge of leadership in any professional sport - we put a lot of value on those skills.
"And, at the same time, we're here to win a championship. That needs to be part of the equation, too."
Banner was finished. The topic shifted. The words "or else" were never uttered. To repeat: There is plenty of room to maneuver here.
But depending upon who is doing the parsing, both Reid backers and Reid haters will be able to find sustenance in the statement for the long months ahead.
Which is the point. *
Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or read his blog, The Idle Rich, at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich. For recent columns go to www.philly.com/RichHofmann.