Didinger Believes Banner Was Forced OutBREAKING NEWS, Eagles, News Tuesday, June 12th, 2012
Jeffrey Lurie says that Joe Banner is leaving the organization because he wants to pursue other opportunities, but Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger doesn’t buy the owner’s story. In an article written on Monday for CSNPhilly.com, Didinger explained that he believes there’s much more to the story than what the Eagles told the media in last Thursday’s press conference.
Didinger writes “When you’ve covered as many press conferences as I have, you see and hear things that trigger a kind of buzzer in your brain. It could be anything, a certain choice of words or maybe a gesture, something that just seems a little odd. The buzzer goes off and you think, “Wait a minute …”
The biggest thing is what I wrote at the time, that is, the Joe Banner I know isn’t one to walk away from a job unfinished. For 18 years, his goal was to win a Super Bowl and he worked toward that goal with a single-minded tenacity. Now we are supposed to believe he is bored and in search of a new challenge?
In his opening remarks, Jeff Lurie referred to Banner as someone who is “unbelievably committed to the franchise.” Now, suddenly, he’s not?”
It does seem strange, if nothing else, that Banner would choose to take on another challenge while leaving behind an unfulfilled dream which he chased for nearly two decades. It doesn’t seem right for someone who is “unbelievably committed” to a goal to drop everything and leave it behind.
Didinger was also thrown off by the attitude of head coach Andy Reid at the press conference. “I was also struck by Andy Reid’s demeanor. On a day when everyone else at the head table used terms like “bittersweet,” the coach was full of good cheer. He opened his remarks by saying: “I’m fired up,” which was awkward at best given the mood in the room.”
Earlier in the off-season, there were reports that Reid was prepared to walk away from his job unless he was given full say regarding all major football decisions. There have been a number of rumblings over the last few seasons about a power struggle within the Eagles front office between Reid and Banner.
As I sat with the rest of the media at the NovaCare complex during the press conference, the head coach seemed to be in a much more positive mood than his counterparts. While Reid was all smiles, Lurie looked at times as though he was on the verge of tears, Banner looked like a defeated man, and new president Don Smolenski didn’t appear comfortable and seemed to want to get out of the spotlight as soon as possible.
Didinger went on to write about how Reid may have pushed for a more traditional front office structure, with the team president no longer involved in football operations. “I also found it interesting that Lurie talked about the Eagles’ “transitioning to a much more traditional structure.” He was quite specific about a front office that consists of a general manager (Howie Roseman), a coach (Reid) and a president (Smolenski) who is not involved in negotiating player contracts. Lurie said that is the way most NFL teams operate these days. He made it sound like, in his view, that’s the way to go.
I believe what happened is Lurie and Reid had lengthy talks about what was needed to get the team moving in the right direction. Part of it involved changing the culture. If you heard any player interviews last week, a familiar theme kept recurring. Almost to a man, the players felt Banner nickel-and-dimed them. He squeezed them at contract time in a way that made them feel unappreciated.”
Reid has seen more than a few of his best players become disgruntled with the team, or sign elsewhere in free agency because of breakdowns in negotiations with Banner and the front office.
Former players like Terrell Owens, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook, and (most infamously) Brian Dawkins have nothing but good things to say about Andy Reid, yet they hardly feel the same way about Banner. The team president was the guy who constantly “disrespected” them, and made them feel as though they weren’t properly valued by the franchise. The stone-cold stance of the front office ultimately caused the team to lose important players like Owens and Dawkins.
In 2011, Reid saw a similar situation involving his young star DeSean Jackson. The Eagles were unwilling to meet Jackson’s contract demands, and it caused the receiver to sulk, leading to poor effort on the field and even worse attitude off of it. It nearly destroyed number 10′s career in Philadelphia.
Reid doesn’t need or want contract issues to further complicate the already difficult goal of fielding a championship-caliber team, and if Didinger’s speculation holds any merit, the head coach made it clear to Lurie that the team needed to change the way they do business. As the Eagles have carried out this shift of power within the front office, Howie Roseman has become the lead man in contract negotiations, and the team has had no trouble agreeing to contract extensions with a number of key veterans this off-season (most notably LeSean McCoy) meaning there will be no contractual distractions going into the start of the season.
The Eagles may say that Banner left his position of his own accord, but when you dig a little deeper and read between the lines, its hard to believe that the president of 18 years really came to this decision on his own.
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