In shake-up, Joe Banner out as Philadelphia Eagles president

Joe Banner joined the Birds in 1994.
Joe Banner joined the Birds in 1994.
Posted: June 08, 2012

In a seismic shift in the Eagles organization, Joe Banner is no longer the team's president.

Banner, who has been a member of the Eagles' front office since his childhood friend, Jeffrey Lurie, purchased the team in 1994, will become a strategic adviser to the owner.

Lurie, however, will allow Banner to pursue other opportunities outside the organization as he fulfills his new role.

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.

A news conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

"Joe's a free agent now," Lurie said Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex, the team's practice facility.

"I'm an employed free agent," Banner added.

Lurie and Banner gathered with Smolenski, Roseman, and Eagles head coach Andy Reid to announce the finalization of what they are calling a "front-office succession plan," one that the owner said began when Banner approached him last spring.

Banner, 59, said Wednesday that he hoped to "get involved with the world of buying and selling a sports team with the possibility of becoming part of a group that buys a team."

Still, as Lurie stated, there is the "inevitable question" of whether Banner was pushed out in a power struggle with Reid and Roseman over the direction of the football team.

"No, the opposite," Lurie said. "It was all done, I think, for what's best for everybody involved."

Whatever the characterization, Banner's drastically reduced role signals a change for the franchise in both how it is run and in its image. There used to be four heads at the table when major football decisions were made. Now there are three - Lurie, Reid, and Roseman - Lurie conceded.

Despite his accomplishments in spearheading the building of Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex and in mastering the salary cap, Banner has often been a lightning rod for fan discontent. Some of his public comments have backfired on the team, most recently when he said last summer that the Eagles were "all in" after they signed a number of high-profile free agents.

The Eagles finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. There had been speculation throughout the season that Reid's job was in jeopardy. But Lurie announced two days after the season ended that Reid would return for a 14th season even though he labeled the season "unacceptable."

In March, there was a report in the Los Angeles Times that Reid had threatened to quit if he wasn't given more control over football operations. The coach said then that the report was not true, and he said Wednesday that the front-office shake-up had nothing to do with trumping Banner in a power struggle.

"There's always a report [about] a power struggle," Reid said. "That's not the case at all. . . . You only have so much time to have an opportunity to be in this business. And so, [Banner has] got goals for himself and wants to do those things. Just like we do with [assistant] coaches - give them an opportunity to move on and fulfill their goals."

Lurie said that potentially losing Smolenski, 45, and Roseman, 36, whom he labeled "star, young executives," played into the decision to promote both. Lurie said that Smolenski signed a multiyear contract as president and that Roseman already had a multiyear deal.

Lurie would not specify on the length of the deals.

Banner signed a four-year extension in April 2010 that was to expire following the 2013 season. Reid's contract, similarly, expires at the same time.

Asked if Banner was still employed by the Eagles, Lurie said: "He's a strategic adviser, and I guess technically that's actually right. He's part of the Eagles family, and he's actively working on things we haven't announced yet."

Banner said that he will retain his office at the NovaCare Complex. Roseman said that he will continue to seek his mentor's counsel. Roseman's responsibilities, in essence, won't change much. He handled all contract negotiations, along with his duties heading the personnel department, this offseason.

"There's no difference today as the last several months," Lurie said.

Banner hired Roseman in 2000 at an entry-level position to help analyze the cap. He worked his way up the chain of command and into player evaluation and was named GM in January 2010.

Smolenski joined the Eagles in 1998 and was named the club's chief operating officer on the same day Banner's last extension was announced.

"We all knew it was going to be Don. Don didn't know," Lurie said. "We all had increasing faith in Howie, and that was really an easy transition in how that went."

Banner's stepping down marks the end of an era. He ran the team's day-to-day operations since May 6, 1994, when Lurie bought the Eagles from Norman Braman. He was named president in 2001. There increasingly became questions, however, about who had final say in football decisions with the on-the-field and off-the-field worlds often crossing paths.

"You can't do what we've done for this time period and not have open communication," Reid said. "We all support each other in it."

Banner was once hailed by the New York Times as the "Joe Montana of the salary cap," but his hard-line stance in negotiations riled some agents and gave fodder for some members of the media and some fans who labeled him a bottom-liner.

"I think Joe, at times, has been underappreciated and misperceived in some of those roles," Lurie said. "And that's true probably with anybody negotiating contracts or trying to manage a salary cap. . . . It goes with the territory. Now they'll pick on Howie."

Lurie's Eagles have yet to win a Super Bowl, despite nine postseason appearances in 13 seasons under Reid. In Reid's first six seasons the Eagles reached the NFC championship game four times and the Super Bowl once. In the last seven, they have only one NFC title game appearance.

Banner, meanwhile, said he's looking for a new challenge. Lurie, who has known Banner for close to 50 years and referred to him Wednesday as "my buddy," gave him a ringing endorsement.

"If I'm going to buy a team," said Lurie, "if I'm someone out there looking to buy an NFL team or a team in another league, if you don't consider doing something with Joe you better have someone better because this guy's one of the best."


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

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