Banner, Eagles cite amicable split, but signs point to Reid victory

Posted: June 08, 2012

Joe Banner may be out - or at least on his way out - but many questions remain unanswered after the Eagles shook up their front office Thursday.

Despite the attempts of Jeffrey Lurie, Andy Reid, and Banner to put a positive spin on the former team president's exit, the organizational stance during a news conference announcing the moves didn't pass the smell test.

So, as is often the case with the tight-lipped Eagles, information on what really went down within the walls of the NovaCare Complex came from sources. And two sources close to the team said that Reid had indeed won an internal power struggle with Banner.

"Today is a bittersweet day in a sense, because I have to relinquish the responsibilities of an outstanding president," Lurie said Thursday, "and allow him to fly."

Banner's wings will be clipped, possibly for another season - one he said he hopes culminates in a Super Bowl. He will take a senior adviser role to Lurie until he takes on his next challenge, one Banner said he anticipates will involve his fronting a group looking to purchase an NFL team.

Chief operating officer Don Smolenski will replace Banner as president and run the day-to-day operations. General manager Howie Roseman will assume all of Banner's responsibilities in managing the team's salary cap and contract negotiations.

In truth, Banner has been grounded for some time. While he and Reid had formed a productive union for most of their 13 years together as president and head coach, a rift had grown between them, two sources within the organization said.

"I know there have been comments out there about conflict, and it would be a sad note to say that there have been 14 years of terrific conflict," Reid said. "We have gotten along as a group and put things out on the table, have shared, and kept an open book."

So what caused the divide? A number of things. A series of public statements made by Banner since the end of the 2008 season that made it seem as if the clock was ticking on Reid's tenure rankled the coach who has yet to win a title.

There were Banner's comments following the January 2009 NFC championship game loss - the Eagles' fourth in five tries under Reid - when he invoked the definition of insanity (repeating mistakes over and over and expecting a different result) after he was asked if it was time for an organizational change.

There was his calling the 2009 roster the best in the NFL before training camp. There was the strong implication Banner made to reporters in February 2011 that Reid had to win a Super Bowl at some point or else. And finally, in what may have been the last straw, there was Banner's trumpeting the Eagles' free-agency success at last season's training camp as the team's "all-in" move to finally winning a Lombardi Trophy.

Banner conceded Thursday that he would have taken back some of his actions during his 18-year tenure in running the day-to-day operations of the Eagles.

"Some of the [conflict] perception is unfounded and exaggerated," Banner said. "But that's not to say that I don't think there were some mistakes made along the lines."

Banner cited the Eagles' handling of Brian Dawkins after the 2008 season, when he was a free agent, as one of his great regrets as president. The Eagles initially drew a line in the sand during the negotiations, and by the time they had finally made an offer, the beloved safety had signed with Denver.

"The way situations were handled led to how it was perceived that we didn't cherish and value those players as much as we actually did," Banner said.

While Reid reiterated that he has final say in all football matters, Banner's constant we made it sound as if decisions - good or bad - weren't made by individuals.

"People have made a big deal about me having the final say, but we've always made sure that we've kept it open, and everybody was able to speak his opinion," Reid said.

Reid and Banner disagreed on the value of certain players, which isn't breaking news. But their disagreements became more significant as the line between Reid's football world and Banner's business world became more blurred.

DeSean Jackson could have been the final straw. While the wide receiver entered negotiations last year with great demands, talks between Banner and agent Drew Rosenhaus stalled. Reid wanted the extension done before the season. It didn't get done, and Jackson turned the situation into a distraction.

When the offseason came, Banner was out. General manager Howie Roseman took over all negotiations and worked out a long-term deal with Jackson after the Eagles placed the franchise tag on him. The contract was viewed as a team-friendly one, and it's fair to say Banner wouldn't have had much trouble getting that deal done.

The same holds true for the extension the Eagles gave running back LeSean McCoy - another Rosenhaus client - last month. Banner, who had helped build the Eagles into a fiscal success story, was being phased out as Reid asserted his control.

There was always uncertainty over who had more power - Reid or Banner. Now there is no doubt: Reid has absolute control over the Eagles, and the 2012 team bears his fingerprints more than ever.

"I would tell you that the way I've envisioned the team is the way that it has taken place here over the years," Reid said. "Has every year been as successful as I wanted it to be or we wanted it to be? No. In particular this last year. So I take responsibility for that."

Reid's future in Philadelphia appears more certain than ever even after last season's 8-8 finish. He has two years left on his contract, but an extension sometime this coming season would not be a shock.

He has leverage in that a handful of teams would knock down the door of his agent, Bob Lamont, to acquire the coach.

Banner, who spearheaded the building of Lincoln Financial Field and the team's practice facility, lamented the Eagles' never winning a title during his reign as president.

"There is no doubt that there's a huge hole in this experience, as amazing as it's been, having not won a Super Bowl," Banner said. "I think we have as good a chance this year, if not better than we've ever had, and I think there's a reasonable chance I'll still be here through that."

It's hard to believe he'll savor it as much had he still been president.


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

 

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