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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Running Joe Banner Through the Wringer 

Looks like it's 'IP day at Early Word. Angelo Cataldi slung tough questions at the Eagles King of Capology, Joe Banner, this morning. Banner answered patiently, even irrevently. How did he think the fans will react when Terrell Owens returns? "Quietly and calmly. … No one would even notice," he quipped. Is he a candidate to be NFL commissioner? "No, but I did submit your name," Banner said to Cataldi, elicting laughs and this comment from Rhea Hughes: "You want the league to go straight to hell?:

Speaking of hell, Banner talked about last season, and denied the Eagles think that T.O. and injuries alone caused the downslide. "The reality is that what went wrong is a combination of a number of things," he said, citing the need to improve team chemistry ("We're hoping to get that back on track") and hinting at upgrading various (unnamed) positions.

"I think everybody in this organization acknowledged we could have done better," he said. "... We know that we make some mistakes."

Not that cutting T.O. was one of them. Or that punishment was the point. "We're trying to win as many football games as we can. It was quite clear that TO’s presence, in our judgment, was counterproductive to doing that. … It’s not even remotely vindictive. It’s just basic common
sense."

He also denied any panic about the defensive line, calling Mike Patterson, Darwin Walker and Sam Rayburn "very solid players." "Right or wrong, we feel good about the players we have."

Banner also spelled out his role in player acquisitions in more detail than I'd heard before.
"I have input in the sense that I explain what the implications are" of any signing, he said. He'll not only calculate the cost, but point out the impact on signing other free agents, retaining players, and current players' "comfort level with the kind of structure of the salaries on the team."

"If we decide we do want to pursue a player, we'll agree at that time on what’s a reasonable price to make an offer," and what the upper limit might be. "We’re pretty disciplined about that," he said, but added that during the process, they will reevaluate their position.

If the Eagles fail to pursue a player fans want, "it wasn’t that we didn't want to spend the money," he said. "It wasn’t that we didn't have the cap room. That's the football evaluation.” Sometimes, the player the player they do pursue just prefers to sign elsewhere, to be with a favorite coach or in a preferred part of the country.

Did the Eagles have input into timing of Dallas game? "No."

And, of course, once again he pooh-poohed allegations of being cheap, saying the team spends more on players, coaches, facilities and charities than almost everybody else. In his 11 or so years with the team, only twice has the team asked a play to take a pay cut, he said. (Clearly, that's no reference to Owens, Corey Simon and Jeremiah Trotter, who were cut before they'd get lots more pay.) Yes, Jon Runyan's take-home was honed last season, but Banner called him “one of the few players in the NFL who signed a long term contract as a free agent and was able to stay with his team and make almost every single penny throughout that contract." Of such restructuring, he said, “we do that less than anybody in the league by a huge margin.”

As for Banner and owner-pal Jeff "Gold Standard" Lurie sometimes sounding too "self-congratulatory," even arrogant, Banner said that with agents and fellow owners, "the reaction to us is that we’re quite modest. ... There’s very few of anybody who knows us personally who would describe us as arrogant or egotistical. ... We’re pretty down to earth, modest and realistic.”

Funny, as those excerpts appear on the screen, they come across with a kind of "we're so modest" hauteur. But as Banner uttered them, they left a different impression. He wasn't bragging, just patiently and soft-spokenly making his case.


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