Banner faces long odds of finding situation as desirable as Eagles

Joe Banner and Andy Reid talk during training camp in 2000. Banner wants to rebuild another team. File Photograph
Joe Banner and Andy Reid talk during training camp in 2000. Banner wants to rebuild another team. File Photograph
Posted: June 10, 2012

In the NFL, success doesn't transfer easily.

Joe Banner, the longtime Eagles president who stepped down this week, said he hopes to put together an investment group that can buy a struggling franchise, with partners who will allow him to run the team and attempt to turn it around, much as he helped do in Philadelphia.

There is a long list of NFL coaches and executives, though, who have struggled to duplicate their initial success at a new location.

Carmen Policy, a salary-cap wizard who helped power the 49ers to a championship, moved to Cleveland after being forced out of San Francisco. The Browns floundered for five years under his watch before he stepped down. Bill Parcells, after winning two Super Bowls with the Giants, has tried to revive several other teams. He has had some success, including an AFC championship at New England, but has not won another title.

Mike Holmgren, who coached the Packers to the top and led a sustained run of winning seasons, later took the Seahawks to one Super Bowl, but he has mostly had modest results as a coach in Seattle and now executive in Cleveland.

There are, of course, exceptions. Bill Belichick was a flop in Cleveland before emerging as the greatest coach of his generation in New England.

Banner acknowledged the challenge of elevating another franchise in the manner he did with the Eagles.

"You can go through some disappointments before you get to the point of success, but that's what's ahead of me," Banner said Thursday. "Some people may feel overwhelmed by that. I actually am excited by that."

Banner, for example, aided Jeffrey Lurie's failed bid to buy the Patriots before Lurie acquired the Eagles.

But once in place in Philadelphia, Banner helped transform the franchise, replacing aging facilities with a gleaming stadium, training complex, and offices. While the Eagles never won a title on his watch, a sore point for Banner and fans alike, the team has been stable, consistently in contention, and profitable. It has a better winning percentage under Lurie than any previous owner.

"In a very short time we turned over the employees and the philosophy and the culture and the priorities and I think built a really strong organization," Banner said.

He had some built-in advantages in Philadelphia, though, including one of the nation's biggest media markets and a rabid fan base eager to snatch up tickets and merchandise.

His new venture might not come with such assets. NFL teams, because they are so profitable, rarely change hands, so he'll have limited options. Often teams that sell are ones owned by older owners. Franchises such as the Bills, Panthers, and Saints might fit that bill.

Banner, insisting he was not pushed out of his job with the Eagles, despite perceptions to the contrary, said he is looking forward to returning to the day-to-day challenges that come with rebuilding a franchise, rather than managing an already-smooth-running operation such as the Eagles.

"Something a bit more intense, competitive, and challenging than mainly serving as a manager will be more challenging and interesting for me," he said.

Banner envisions moves with a new team that would follow the blueprint he used with the Eagles: hire reliable coaches and executives who can provide continuity, and build top-class facilities.

"The quality of the people is what differentiates one franchise from another," Banner said.

Certain visible symbols influence player perceptions of management's commitment to winning, he said. Travel conditions; meals; and a bright, clean working environment send a positive message. Having outdated facilities creates a "gross contradiction" with any talk of being the best.

Banner changed those elements of the Eagles and hopes to do it again elsewhere. It will be a steep challenge, one that has tripped up many other leading NFL men.


Contact Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or jtamari@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JonathanTamari.

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