I don’t know exactly why Joe Banner is no longer president of the Philadelphia Eagles. But I’m 99 percent certain it didn’t happen the way the Eagles said it went down.
The idea that Banner woke up one morning and decided he no longer wanted to be president of an organization he’s been an integral part of for 18 years doesn’t pass the smell test. It seems probable that, at the very least, Banner was gently pushed out the door.
If this was Banner’s choice, it would only be because his role was already reduced. This offseason general manager Howie Roseman handled contract negotiations, which were once Banner’s domain. In some ways, the aptitude of Roseman, Banner’s protégé, made Banner expendable.
Once Banner became expendable, why would the Eagles want him to go? There are two reasons that make sense. First, Banner’s defensive and often combative attitude when responding to questions were damaging to the Eagles’ public image. He also made public pronouncements that probably weren’t part of the approved company message, which led to the second probable reason for his departure: he lost a power struggle with head coach Andy Reid.
The two reasons cited above are related. When Banner reminded us that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome, it seemed to be a shot at Reid. When Banner said the Eagles had the most talented roster in the NFL, that also seemed to be a win-or-else shot across Reid’s bow. The same is true for last offseason when Banner intimated that Reid’s job could be in jeopardy if the Eagles didn’t win the Super Bowl. His repetition of a newspaper columnist’s characterization of the Eagles being “all in” last summer was another challenge to Reid.
The message Banner repeatedly seemed to be sending was that the front office gave Reid enough talent to win. It was Reid’s responsibility to mold that talent into a championship team.
Regardless of how unflappable Reid tries to appear in public, there’s no way he could be pleased with Banner’s comments. Imagine your boss making public statements that your department wasn’t working to its potential.
One problem might be that Reid didn’t think of Banner as his boss. When it comes to running the football team, Reid feels he is — and should be — the boss. Banner did contract negotiations, but Reid believes that he should call the shots. Now, there’s no question. Reid is the boss.
What’s interesting is that when Roseman became general manager, it was widely viewed as a sign that Reid’s power within the organization was diminished. The Banner-Roseman tandem was supposedly going to have more say over personnel. In the end, however, Reid won the power struggle – despite denials that there was a power struggle – and Banner found himself the odd man out.
This brings us back to the rumors that the San Diego Chargers were interested in hiring Reid to replace Norv Turner. This speculation was further fueled by Reid’s nearly month-long public silence after the season ended. Finally, we had the report in the L.A. Times that Reid had threatened to leave to coach the Chargers unless he was given more power over personnel.
Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. When I add up the three items in the previous paragraph, I see a whole lot of smoke.
And when the smoke started to clear last week, Andy Reid was the man left standing.
PESSIMISTIC OUTLOOK: In my column at the beginning of last week, I checked in with Joe Optimist and Joe Pessimist to get a gauge on the Phillies’ season. In the short term, the evidence seems to support Joe Pessimist’s view that the Phillies are in trouble. Joe Pessimist also was correct about the Eagles last September. Let’s hope he’s not correct about the Phillies this season.
HOORAY FOR THOME: Everybody wants to see Jim Thome, one of sport’s class acts, succeed in his return to the Phillies. We finally saw signs of that happening during this weekend’s series against the Orioles. Thome hit two doubles during the Phillies’ 9-6 win Friday night, then hit the 605th home run of his career, his first as a Phillie in seven seasons, during their 6-4 loss on Saturday.
Although it was encouraging to see Thome swing the bat so well, the enthusiasm is tempered by the knowledge that he only received those at-bats because the games were in Baltimore, allowing the Phillies to use a designated hitter. When the Phillies return to National League play, Thome will be limited to one at-bat per game. The Phillies have said he will not play in the field the rest of this season.
PREMATURE CELEBRATION: I’m still not quite ready to give myself a pat on the back for having my preseason championship picks (Kings and Thunder) in the finals of their respective sports. As I said last week, I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they hatch.
That’s a lesson the Los Angeles Kings have learned after seeing the Devils win two straight games. The Devils are attempting to become the first team to rally from a 3-0 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup since the Maple Leafs, the only team to accomplish this feat, did it against Detroit in 1942.
RATINGS KILLER: The overnight ratings for the Belmont Stakes are not in yet, but NBC couldn’t have been happy when I’ll Have Another was scratched from the race on Friday, removing any suspense about whether horse racing would have its first Triple Crown winner since 1978. My guess is that ratings were about half of what they would have been if I’ll Have Another would have been in the field.
Congratulations go out to Chadds Ford Stable, which is the home base for Union Rags, who rallied to defeat Paynter at the wire. Union Rags was the Kentucky Derby favorite, but I’ll Have Another stole the show.
RATINGS WINNER: My guess is that the Heat-Thunder matchup will be a ratings bonanza for the NBA. The Heat draw attention, even if many of the viewers are rooting for them to lose.
In the eyes of many sports fans, both the Kings and Thunder are facing the devils in the finals.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Many people were shocked by the split decision in favor of Timothy Bradley on Saturday night, as he handed Manny Pacquiao his first loss in seven years. This is the latest in a long history of controversial decisions in boxing, which is why I no longer get upset when I witness what appears to be an unfair decision.
I haven’t been worked up about a boxing decision since seeing champion Jorge Paez awarded a ridiculous victory against Troy Dorsey 22 years ago. Since that fight, I’ve found it easier to expect a bad decision, then be pleasantly surprised when there doesn’t appear to be any chicanery involved.
HENDRICK DOMINANCE: I’m writing Fish ‘n Chips before the start of the Pocono 400, so this isn’t hindsight: I expect the race to be won by a Hendrick Motorsports car. Since Jimmie Johnson’s win at Darlington on May 12, Hendrick has won every race, including two that don’t count in the Sprint Cup standings.
Johnson won at Darlington, then won the Sprint All-Star Race, and completed the hat trick last Sunday at Dover. Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600, partly due to a pit stop mistake by Johnson’s crew, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a short race that doesn’t count in the Sprint Cup standings. The only Hendrick driver who hasn’t joined the victory party is Jeff Gordon, who has been plagued by incredibly bad fortune this year.
If Johnson doesn’t continue his recent dominance, don’t be surprised if one of his Hendrick teammates takes the checkered flag. If Junior or Gordon wins, the crowd will be particularly pleased.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for more than 23 years, finds it disturbing that he agrees with Joe Pessimist more often than Joe Optimist these days.