It Was Time

Posted: June 8th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 54 Comments »

Tommy asked me to write a little bit about my take on the departure of Joe Banner. My feelings on this are complex and are not likely to be well-expressed in this post, so I apologize in advance. Understand, I have been following Banner for nearly 20 years. I honestly believe he was one of the best executives in the league and had a profound impact on the team’s success. But, in my view, his departure will be a positive for the team on the field.

*****

What you have to first appreciate about the man is the impact he had on the game. Much of what we take for granted in the NFL today was either innovated or adopted early by the Eagles. Cap space flexibility as a valuable tool and a weapon was his greatest legacy. The earliest examples of this that I think of are the signings of Troy Vincent from Miami, Rickey Watters from San Francisco and Kevin Turner from New England. All were restricted free agents entering their age 26 season — Vincent and Watters as Transition tag players, Turner as a player with only 3 years of experience. Both were signed to deals structured in a way that made it nearly impossible for their teams to match. Later teams used “exploding” bonuses to make the deals actually more expensive to the former team than to the Eagles, but Banner just made the deal hard to fit under the current cap unless the team had a lot of space … like the Eagles did.

Investing in young, ascending players. Using their ample cap space to attack teams that didn’t have enough. That was the early Joe Banner.

Later, he layered in ways to make sure that the talent on his roster was maximized, given the cap constraint. And remember this: the league was very cap constrained. Few teams had space, and if you wanted to be good, you had to overspend — that was what the 49ers and the Cowboys and all of the other top teams of the era were doing.

First, Banner aggressively signed his own young players to extensions. This kept guys on the team through their most productive years, and kept them at a price that was likely to be below market if they stayed healthy. He also innovated the use of phony incentives to roll otherwise unused cap space forward from one year to the next, which allowed him the flexibility to actually exceed the league-wide cap in a given year — something the Eagles did more than many fans appreciate.

Finally, he imposed a philosophy that sounds so obvious today that people accept it, but it was novel 15 years ago: pay as you go cap management. This meant that contracts were structured such that relatively little money was paid in the form of a signing bonus, and therefore spread out over the life of the deal. Instead, he tried to have the cash cost of the deal be similar to the cap cost of the deal. This meant that the players would have higher cap hits early in their contract, but lower ones later … and more importantly, if their skills declined and they had to be cut, their remaining “dead money” wouldn’t continue to burden the cap.

In many ways, I’ve always thought that the Eagles’ success from 2000-2004 was in large part due to Joe Banner. His financial management allowed them to have more talent wrapped up under the cap than a team should have had.

But the rest of the NFL caught on. And in 2006, a new CBA agreement raised the cap high enough that teams were no longer really constrained in their spending. Decisions to sign or not sign a player were made on the basis of whether a player was worth the price he was asking rather than whether the team could afford the price the player was asking given their cap room.

At that point, Joe Banner’s talent at managing the cap was no longer especially useful. Everybody went to pay-as-you-go cap management, because they could afford to under the higher cap. Young players never hit free agency, they were always wrapped up early.

*****

To understand why Joe Banner is leaving, in my view, you have to understand what he became after the 2006 CBA. Like I said earlier, the new question in the NFL was whether a player was worth the price he was asking for. It was now all about putting the right dollar value on the available guys.

Of course, this had always been a critical part of the process. Now, however, it was an unusually large part. And Banner had a view on what a player was worth. Think about that for a second, though. Valuing talent is what you would want the GM types to do — this guy is good, this guy isn’t. What Banner should be doing is figuring out how to fit as much of the good players under his cap as possible, not figuring out what the guys are worth.

The Eagles struggled to innovate in the post-2006 CBA market. Sometimes, they tried to create value by not overpaying for low-usage skills (fullback, return specialist) or by taking advantage of a market discount created by an injury situation. Sometimes, they were willing to take a clearly marginal player who was fairly priced instead of moving a legitimately good veteran’s contract to a fair price (see the decisions to go with Ellis Hobbs over Sheldon Brown and Quintin Demps over Brian Dawkins).

As a result, Banner’s role became uncomfortable. We have long heard rumors of a rift between Andy Reid and Banner. We have seen ample evidence of Banner being the bad cop to Reid’s good cop. There are whispers that DeSean Jackson’s deal only got done once Banner was shoved aside.

To understand this, you need to view it in the context of what Banner’s job had been reduced to: he wanted to make sure that the Eagles didn’t pay more for a player than he was worth. And it wasn’t clear that he was the right man for that job anymore.

*****

Last season, I was miserable with the performance of the team. I put up a pair of posts  explaining this. In one of them, I set forth what I thought Jeffrey Lurie’s job would be after the season — to answer a series of difficult questions about the organization. The bottom line, to me, was “Who is responsible”? There were three candidates: Reid, Howie Roseman, and, of course, Banner. The guy who clearly didn’t belong at the table any more was Banner.

But I never thought he would be able to leave. And not just because of Lurie’s long friendship with Banner. I thought he would never leave because he was so important in the non-football operations part of the Eagles business. I thought he was here for life.

The time had come, however. Banner’s story about the timing and the reasons for his departure are surely true. What used to be the hard part of his job, on the football operations side, no longer was relevant. Running the business side also no longer required a tremendous amount of work, once Lincoln Financial Field had been built. So I am certain he was ready to move on. Once the lockout was over, the time was right.

So that is why it was good timing for him. But that is not why his departure was good timing for the Eagles. For me, Banner leaving also clarified a good many things about the organization. He had become a big part of the problem in the football operations department.

No, Banner wasn’t forced out. This isn’t about a coup. But that doesn’t mean the team isn’t better off without him. It is. I would not be surprised if, after carefully reviewing the team after the season, Lurie came to the same conclusion. I can imagine Lurie saying, “Your resignation comes as a great relief to me.”

That doesn’t mean that Howie Roseman and Andy Reid are the ideal team to be running the franchise. That remains to be seen. Each has their flaws and each has great challenges going forward. That said, the team is now being run with a more unified vision. That is clear from their moves this off-season and especially clear from some of the introspective comments that Roseman has made about learning from last year’s debacle.

So far I like the new vision. And I don’t think it would have been possible with Joe Banner still in the building.


  • kujo76

    You ought to be ashamed of how poorly you expressed yourself in this post. Especially since it was the most interesting Eagles-related article I’ve read all offseason.

    • TommyLawlor

      Kinda decent, huh?

  • Yuri

    Thanks Sam. I was not geek enough to incorporate concepts like “impact of 2006 CBA” into my thinking of Joe’s usefulness.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XYEN6YJNFWV3PNKQWFL6U65OGE Kushan Patel

    This Sam guy is LEGIT. Impressive article.

  • Thunder_lips

    Did anyone else get the sense from reading this that there is a power struggle brewing between Sam and Tommy for control of Iggles Blitz?

    • TommyLawlor

      We are. He wants the site to have more of a Greg Richmond theme. I’m sticking with Mike Labinjo.

      • T_S_O_P

        Ah to reminisce. Great memories.

    • http://twitter.com/ProtoTyler Tyler Phillips

      “terrific conflict”

    • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

      hahaha great comment. awesome article. would definitely like to read more of sam’s stuff.

      • miked718

        Iggles Blog reunion tour for the 2012 Season of Greatness! Also, I like Reid and Howie running the team as it is now, loaded with talent. Not sure I’d trust those two to rebuild by themselves though.

      • ACViking

        Jeff LURIE.
        Jeff LURIE.
        Jeff LURIE.
        Jeff LURIE.
        Jeff LURIE.

        Got it. Won’t make that mistake again.

        • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

          hahaha appreciate it =]

  • teltschikfakeout88

    Sam your passage on the LTBE was good. I bet most fans of our team aren’t even aware of that trick we did. Thanks for pointing that out in this post as well as your prior posts on that other board. You are a true gentleman and a scholar.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

    i just read the other articles that you linked on here sam and they were terrific as well. sorry tommy…but im starting to want to hear more from him haha.

    • TommyLawlor

      Sam doesn’t have as much time to write as I do. That is the only thing that keeps him from posting more often. We all love reading his stuff. Very smart guy (except when he disagrees with me).

      • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

        i wish he had more time then..cause i would love to read about his outlook of the organization as it stand today like he did in the first post he linked to. i found a lot of it to be very accurate and true and it seems like a lot has changed since then and he was right about a lot of things. would be interesting to see what he has to say on that topic now.

        • http://igglesblitz.com Sam Lynch

          Tommy needs to pay me in a more traditional form. There’s only so many Guns & Ammo magazines one can really keep around the house, you know?

          re: the Organization … that’s a long form piece that I have been trying to write for months now. We’ll see.

          • TommyLawlor

            I sent you an autographed copy of Eagles Digest with Chris Boniol on the cover. What more do you want?

          • http://igglesblitz.com Sam Lynch

            You know I’m holding out for Alkire’s home phone number.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Alkire/666386427 Matt Alkire

            You think I’d give Tommy my home phone number? What’s wrong with you. He could get my address and raid my house, thus finding more money to feed his Hungarian indie film habit.

          • McMVP

            He’d only be a danger if you had a stash of chocolate pudding, PBR, and nude photos of Megan Fox. If you don’t, you should be safe.

            —-

            Great read Sam…I miss your posting in the blog…

          • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

            guns and ammo mags? cmon tommy…at least pay the man in trident. haha

            i liked how you pointed out your view on all of the flaws the eagles have and i agreed with most and had my eyes opened to others. and i think we have similar views or at least close enough…i just believe you have a better and more knowledgeable outlook of the big picture. i do like how i read that earlier post after reading this one because hindsight is always better. but reading what you wrote 6 and 8 months ago and seeing whats going on this season makes me think that lurie hopped online and read what you wrote and took it to heart and banner is a prime example of that. so im real curious as to see what you feel the next move for the organization is to put us back on the right path and what you think we still need to fix and what our biggest flaws are as of today and right this moment for the organization as a whole and not just the team and on field production.

            im sure the months of you putting your thoughts to paper will be well worth it and insightful.

  • aleandro green

    wow, i learned a ton from this article

  • austinfan

    I don’t think the Eagle problems after 2006 had much to do with Banner, more a series of unfortunate circumstances:

    1) McNabb’s injuries in 2005 and 2006 derailed his career, he went from top 3-5 to marginal top 10 the rest of his career, that was a BIG loss of talent at a key position.

    2) JJ dying destroyed the defense after 2008. Sean, the experienced young assistant (who was exactly what people have clamored for instead of Juan) had no clue, and I think was behind many of the bad personnel decisions like Dawk and Sheldon and Gocong. You get players for your system, if your DC doesn’t know what you’re doing, neither does your FO.

    3) Otherwise, they continued to make good moves, picking up Peters, drafting Maclin and DeSean and Shady, etc.

    2000-2004 was an unusual run, 2006-2010 was more normal, 1 NFCCG appearance, 1 year just missing the NFCCG with their backup QB, two years knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. That’s a pretty good run for most teams.
    48-31-1 .606 winning percentage. 3-4 playoff record over those five years.

    I see 2011 much like 2005, even top teams (Balt, Pitt, NE) have that one bad year once or twice a decade. 2012 they’re loaded for Bear, even with Peters’ injury.

    Now I think Howie has grown into the job, and he’s simply a more talented football guy (yes, I said that) than Joe, who was more a business guy. I also think Howie, not Andy, is running the show, but he’s smart enough never to suggest that publicly, but all those extensions were very similar to what Banner used to negotiate, they were not “keep the coach happy giveaways,” they were market rates with limited dead money and outs for the team, with one eye focused on an escalating salary cap after 2014. The difference is more style than substance, but style can be important in management positions – Howie is a tough negotiator, but he knows how to make the medicine go down without protest, and how to stroke egos – Joe was more of an entrepreneurial type, Howie is your senior corporate manager.

    • http://igglesblitz.com Sam Lynch

      Nobody blamed the Eagles problems post 2006 on Banner. All I said was that what he brought was no longer innovative or differentiating. The absence of that isn’t a negative, it just fails to be a positive.

      • austinfan

        I think the last draft gave us all a lot more confidence in Howie, he made some mistakes his first couple years, but really did everything right this offseason, including snatching up Bell when Peters put him in a huge hole. That really was the question, he had the money side down, the legal side down, but could he manage the personnel decisions.

        I think Tommy’s right, the personnel conflicts between Banner and Reid have been exaggerated, and for a while I suspect AR liked the good cop/bad cop shtick that allowed him to avoid responsibility for unpopular decisions. But Joe lacks the ability to shrug off criticism, not just of himself but of Lurie and the organization, and in Philly, you have to have a thick skin, or at least be able to keep your cool under provocation. Howie seems to be able to disarm reporters with seeming sincerity (which I suspect isn’t an act so much as the discretion to know how much to say, tell the truth, but never the whole truth).

        She crossed a lot of people
        Some she called friends
        She thought she’d live forever
        But forever always ends

        Did she jump or was she pushed
        Did she jump or was she pushed
        Did she jump or was she pushed

  • Arby1

    Brilliant piece, Sam. And I liked your angry earlier pieces too. Miss your voice around here.

  • http://twitter.com/alex_karklins Alex Karklins

    Great analysis, Sam. I was hoping you’d post something about this. We seem to be in agreement that Banner kind of outlived his usefulness. I think there are plenty of other organizations that can’t control their spending that would love his services.

  • 89tremaine

    Articles like this are why I enjoy this site over others. This site, and this article in particulat, presents both the good and the bad side of all things Eagle-related, with actual reasoned arguments. Other sites, that I won’t mention would instead make arguments like “Joe Banner sucks because he never spends” or “Andy Reid only drafts fat guys”.

    Kudos Sam (and Tommy for other articles that I always read, but rarely comment on).

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GWMNZ32U6YPGGA7N4JNWH4OSJE Mac

      Eagles fans are quite blessed to have Sam and Tommy. They put a lot of time and effort into the posts that go up, and take time to interact with their readers. Truth be told, I don’t waste much time checking other sites for Eagles info.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GWMNZ32U6YPGGA7N4JNWH4OSJE Mac

    In order for any business to maintain relevancy it must… either reinvent itself or for whatever reason have no competitor.

    Simply put, I believe this move is an opportunity for Banner and for the Eagles to do some reinventing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

      i would rather have no competitor though. at least just for one year so we could get a lombardi. and i dont mean competitor as in no one to play…i mean competitor as in no team can give us legit competition =]
      but what you said about maintaining relevancy was very wisely put. i can see myself reading this off a fortune cookie…
      Confucious say’s: In order for any business to maintain relevancy it must… either reinvent itself or for whatever reason have no competitor.

      • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

        lucky numbers: 7, 10, 18, 25

        • pkeagle

          and 58!

          • http://www.facebook.com/adotyang Aaron Yang

            ahh..i was going offense but it was definitely silly of me to leave 58 out. my apologies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000462635892 Thorin McGee

    Great stuff, Sam! I was thinking when he was let go that it seemed almost like Banner had been board in his role the past few years (the sneering at fans, insulting players et al are the kinds of things you expect from someone who’s sick of their job) but I didn’t think about how the looser cap changed his role. It’s a huge change going form staff wunderkind to staff nazi.

  • A_T_G

    Quality, insightful, even handed writing as usual, Sam. Thanks for the article.

    Might be time to start hunting for a new profile pic though.

  • Canadian_Eagle

    Great article Sam…..the only thing the article was missing was a few Derek Landri references. Derek Landri will be named 2012 Defensive Player of the Year…you heard it here first.

    • D3Keith

      Shouldn’t you be boosting Danny Watkins?

  • Cliff

    Another angle on all of this is how important AR is to the franchise. AR has done so well at VP and HC from an organizational standpoint that you can lose a veteran like Heckert and add an inexperienced guy like Howie and still be stable enough to lose Banner.

    I feel like Reid is sort of a rock that anchors the front office. I don’t think you could replace him with someone with the personality of a Rex Ryan or whoever. I mean, look at the Jets and all of their B.S. this off-season. We added Vick when the dog fighting issue was at its worst and this organization just continued beating the drum. The Jets add Tebow and you wonder what the hell they’re doing.

  • Cafone

    Nice piece Sam. I always enjoy it when you get a chance to add to the great stuff put out by Tommy.

  • Flyin

    Tommy,

    It is time for you to work on your rap if you want to compete…

    Sam I am down with the program
    Green eggs and ham Yosemite Sam
    Come Halloween you know I come strapped
    I throw it at a sucker K-pap
    You made the mistake you judge a man by his race
    You go through life with egg on your face
    You woke up in the morning with a peculiar feeling
    You looked up and saw egg dripping from the ceiling
    Families punk rocks the businessman
    I’ll dog anybody with an egg in my hand
    Not like the crack that you put in a pipe
    But crack on your forehead here’s a towel now wipe

    • TommyLawlor

      I’ll see what I can do. My rapping does need a lot of work.

      • Flyin

        Yeah, the Bears shuffle is intimidating. Yet, the sky is the limit my brother!

  • GermanBird

    What a good read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

  • eagleizeit

    I hope we have a chance to stay competeive in a few years when teams like the Patriots follow Banners principles as shown today by signing Gronk to a 6 yr extension after 2 yrs of play. They have him locked up for 8 yrs(through 2019) at only $54 million, or 6.75 mil per yr. Even though Banner wasn’t a nice person to conduct business with for the players, from what I’m hearing, his business model in regards to the cap actually do seem to be in full effect today. Compare D-Jax deal to Gronk and the Patriots clearly look like they have the better future. The difference is the Patriots players buy into the teams success and are willing to sacrice financially due to their players being taught if they prefer greed NE will let them fulfill those desires via trade or release. If they want a SB than the team, unselfishness and sacrifices are required. In some cases even that’s not enough if you don’t produce. Chad lowering his salary to $1 mil, which not only he wouldn’t do if he was in Philly, but the city and media would be discusted at the thought of the Eagles trying to be cheap if he were here and did that; are just some ex of how the Philly media try’s there best to be negative, interfere and persuade the naive public to be irate at any local team trying to organize a victorious team. Boston’s media is quite the opposite when it comes to trying to produce losers in all their sports by trying to always put negative thoughts in people’s heads about their teams and tear them apart. They respect and enjoy winning and supporting their teams which allows the teams to go ahead and win multiple times in multiple sports.
    As pointed out if the Eagles ripped off Gronk and the Pats overpaid for D-Jax(which would never happen) there’d be a ton of negative press day in and day out over several yrs trying to destroy the teams chemistry and if the past is any indication of the future Philly media would succeed as always.

    • http://igglesblitz.com Sam Lynch

      I disagree, re the Patriots. The Gronkowski deal is misleading because he had two years (untouched) on hs rookie deal. It is not directly comparable. Put it this way: Gronkowski signed the biggest deal ever for a TE. Jackson wasn’t even a bigger deal than Pierre Garçon. That is the way to do business: lock up your best players at a reasonable price.

      • A_T_G

        Did Jason Peters just take a cut for this year as well?

      • D3Keith

        I was thinking the same thing. The Eagles’ and Patriots’ front-office styles and results (in terms of who they sign and for how much, and how well they draft) are very similar.

        The difference is the big-game results: The three Lombardis/Five Super Bowls vs. Five NFCCGs/1 Super Bowl L gives the Patriots a credibility that the Eagles can’t match. And when it comes to guys wanting to get on board for for a championship run — literally on board as in signing, but also on board as in buying in and putting aside selfish desires for team success, which IMO always fulfills the selfish desires later on — they have us beat.

        Reid runs a locker room in which he takes the fall, stands up for his players, etc. Belichick runs a locker room in which they players stand up for each other, and there is no fall to take, in their minds. The Eagles are good, the Patriots are great.

        I think their advantage in credibility and in straight-out-of-a-Disney-movie-style teamwork is what gives the Pats the edge over us. The front offices are pretty similar.

  • Eric Weaver

    Reminds me of billy beane and sabermetrics.

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  • Eric Weaver

    It kind of amazes me how howie is now seen as the complete opposite of banner when two years ago Michael Silver of yahoo sports reported several NFL execs labeled howie as a “shakedown artist”.

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