Mike Missanelli: Banner's exit gives Reid full control of Eagles

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie sits with new team president Don Smolenski during Thursday's news conference.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie sits with new team president Don Smolenski during Thursday's news conference. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 11, 2012

In the past, there have been accusations that the Eagles have been so insanely jealous of the goodwill and publicity the Phillies get from the fans that the football team intentionally creates news to take the baseball team off the front pages.

But it's a good thing for the Phillies that the Eagles on Thursday decided to push Joe Banner out the door, because the Phils, right now, look like a junior varsity team.

They can't hit with any impunity. They kick the ball around. Their bullpen, in getting to closer Jonathan Papelbon, is flimsy and sorry. The level of desperation is such that fans have actually convinced themselves that the loss to injury of cute little utility man Freddie Galvis (he of the .226 batting average and .254 on-base percentage) is a death blow for the team. Yikes.

But I'll get back to the Phillies in a bit.

The news conference announcing that Banner would no longer be the president of the Eagles was as surreal as a Salvador Dali painting. And it started off that way courtesy of the artist known as Jeffrey Lurie. Lurie paints a canvas of life with a wealthy man's brush - which is to say he has no idea how the other 99 percent of the world lives.

How could he? He was a trust-fund kid, becoming rich without having to actually communicate to the masses to get to that plateau.

In detailing a meeting that he had with Banner in 2010 to discuss the "status" of the organization, Lurie said this:

"Joe said, almost anecdotally, 'You know, if [only] I could find something that would be my next great challenge in the sports world,' similar to what it was when I acquired the team in 1994-95. I listened to him and I said, 'I wish we had something that was the next great opportunity, but that's not the case.'

"We've been obsessed with the Eagles all this time and developing the best possible franchise. We hadn't made any other acquisitions of sports teams and we hadn't expanded to the English Premier League or the NBA, like some of my fellow owners had. We've been fully obsessed with the franchise in the NFL."

If I didn't know better, I'd think that Lurie was trying to pull off some kind of practical joke. Does the owner actually expect Eagles fans to respond favorably to a statement such as that?

Gee, sorry that the efforts to win a Super Bowl in this town cut into your "other acquisitions" plans. I would think winning an NFL championship would be the ultimate challenge, not owning Arsenal.

In a radio interview I did on Thursday with Banner, he asked me, incredulously, whether I believed owners such as Robert Kraft of the Patriots or John Mara of the Giants don't explore other sports franchise opportunities. My eyes got really wide before I reminded Banner that those two gentlemen had Super Bowl championships falling out of their pockets like loose dimes.

Let's cut to the chase here. Banner was deposed Thursday. It has nothing to do with his desire to explore other opportunities, though I'm sure that he might have that chance in the near future - especially if the NFL is serious in bringing an NFL franchise back to Los Angeles.

He was deposed because Andy Reid wanted, and needed, more autonomy. Reid was tired of having to pull his players into locker room happiness after their husks had been burned by Banner in the negotiation fires. And Lurie finally figured out that Banner was simply not a good front man for the organization.

When Lurie said Thursday that his organization was now a more "conventional" model, he was suggesting that it had needed to be improved. And I've got to feel that he didn't wake up one morning in his silk sheets and realize that. It had to be at the suggestion of Reid.

And so what we have now is Andy Reid, Eagle for Life.

Oh yeah, you can listen to all the national pundits you want tell you that this move with Banner puts Reid more on a hot seat. Hogwash. This was a power play in which the head coach has now gained total autonomy. He'll be the coach here as long as he wants to be the coach here. And then he'll move into a president's role of sorts - franchise architect - such as it is now for his mentor, Mike Holmgren, in Cleveland (and before that, Seattle).

The only thing that will make it more official is Lurie's giving Reid a new contact - which I expect to happen either during training camp, or a couple of games into this season. How do you like that thought?

Say what you will about Banner, but he made Jeffrey Lurie a lot of money. He was the front man in the construction of Lincoln Financial Field, was for years willing to hold the line on contracts and keep Lurie's payroll in salary-cap heaven. And - perhaps most important - was content to serve as "bad cop" to Andy Reid's "good cop."

For a lot of those years, Eagle stars complained how they had to sweat blood to get new deals with Banner.

And now the focus has changed. Current players are being rewarded, as opposed to throwing money at outsiders, the free-agent mercenaries.

We shall soon see whether Andy Reid's good-cop hat stays clean.

 But back to the Phillies. After three rather mediocre starts in a row, the clamor for a new contract for Cole Hamels has waned, which is probably to the delight of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Is it my imagination, or does the GM really go out of his way to downplay Hamels' value? And is that really necessary?

Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic.

Contact him at mikemiss@975thefanatic.com.


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