Eagles' Banner finally swears off excuses

Posted: February 20, 2011

Joe Banner said something the other day that didn't make me chuckle. (Not the remark about the Steelers and the Eagles being equally successful; that one made me laugh so hard, I almost passed out.) What he said didn't make me confused or annoyed or angry, either. Surprising, but true.

The Eagles' president recently had a super-exclusive meeting with a select group of media members at the NovaCare Complex. My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail, along with my fat Page 2 bonus check and the Pulitzer my grandmother swears I deserve. These things happen. I'm sure it was an oversight, since I never fail to flatter Banner. (No doubt Banner would back me up on that.)

It's a real shame I wasn't in Banner's fortified concrete NovaCare Complex bunker - that's where I imagine the meeting took place; I also imagine its being the "undisclosed location" Dick Cheney used as a hideout when he was the vice president - because I would have congratulated Banner in person for finally saying something I agree with, something that makes sense and that few fans would bother to argue.

Yup, I would have clapped Banner on the back and given him the old "Attaboy, Joe. Keep it up. Way to be. Huzzah." And so on and so forth. I think it would have done wonders for our relationship.

So, right, about what he said:

"If we don't win it next year, we're not going to make any excuses," Banner told his hand-picked assembly. "We're not setting the bar any lower than going all the way to win a championship. We don't have a problem with people holding us to that."

Banner has said a handful of things in the past that haven't struck me as shameless company lines or frightening delusion. A quick review of that list: the time he quoted Einstein about how insanity is defined by doing the same things over and over but expecting different results. I really liked that. Of course, then the Eagles kept doing the same things over and over (re: Andy Reid), so it's hard to give Banner credit for that one. And there was the time Banner started his news conference with "Hello." I really liked that, too.

So that's the list. Until now. Until this latest bit. Let's break it down, sentence by sentence:

"If we don't win it next year, we're not going to make any excuses." Finally. The fans have been waiting for the implementation of this policy for a long time. Gold standard. Best roster in the NFL. A chance to win every year. Maybe those familiar phrases weren't excuses, per se, but they felt a little like an accountant trying to cook the books and inflate a company's stock price. In the aforementioned media soiree, Banner did some of that and reminded everyone that there are "only three teams in the league that have made the playoffs the last three years." The no-excuses line was better. He should have quit while he was ahead. Something for him to work on.

"We're not setting the bar any lower than going all the way to win a championship." Again, an important sentiment. And, again, Banner would do well to remember his remarks if they don't win it all next year. Reaching the playoffs is nice if you live in Cleveland or some other pitiful shantytown. It stopped being good enough for the Eagles a while back. And it certainly stopped being good enough for Philadelphia after the Phillies reminded everyone that titles are attainable here.

And, finally, my favorite line of the entire statement:

"We don't have a problem with people holding us to that." Fantastic. Because, used to be, Banner and the Birds had a problem with people holding them to that. When criticized in the past, team handlers were known - on behalf of Banner or other front-office higher-ups - to call local radio stations, TV stations, or no-good newspapers and whine about the coverage, otherwise known as the method by which some people hold them to certain things. The Birds also have been known to produce in-house data and polling numbers to point out how wildly popular the organization is despite having failed to win a title for 50 seasons. Hard to hold them to something, or anything, when their default position is to swear everything is dandy and then complain about how unfairly they're treated.

So, to review: In Banner's own words, the Eagles' only goal is to win a championship. They won't make excuses if they don't. And they're cool with people holding them to all that.

Maybe Page 2 had Banner wrong all along. Maybe he gets it.

Just to be safe, we'll keep his quote handy if he needs a reminder about what he said. Can't be too careful.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez

at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

Follow him at twitter.com/gonzophilly


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