The Eagles will hold a news conference this afternoon to talk about Joe Banner losing his key to the executive bathroom at One NovaCare Way.
Banner will be there. Owner Jeff Lurie will be there. General manager Howie Roseman will be there. And head coach/executive vice-president of football operations Andy Reid will be there.
The one thing you can most assuredly count on all of them telling us in no uncertain terms is that that Banner’s decision to step down as club president has absolutely, positively nothing to do with him losing a power struggle to Reid this offseason.
Which means it had everything to do with him losing a power struggle to Reid.
When Reid was asked in late March at the NFL owners meetings about a report by the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer that he had threatened to quit if he wasn’t given more control, Reid dismissed it by saying that he’s had "final say for a number of years."
That was true and not true. Yes, Reid largely has had final say in personnel decisions since Banner and Lurie fired Tom Modrak back in 2001. But in his role as the team’s salary cap wizard and chief contract negotiator, Banner had a great deal of influence over many of those personnel decisions.
Reid had grown weary of having a locker room full of players with bad attitudes because of the way they had been treated at the bargaining table. He felt a kinder, gentler approach was needed. At some point, probably right before Lurie announced in early January that Reid would be returning, I think Lurie came to the same conclusion.
"I was surprised by this move because Joe has been so close to Mr. Lurie and was seen as such a huge part of the Eagles’ franchise from the time Mr. Lurie took over the team," agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "It’s a stunning development. It’s not something I ever anticipated happening just because he’s been so integral."
Yet, Rosenhaus saw things changing this offseason. He negotiated new contracts with the Eagles for free agents DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis and All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy. Banner wasn’t really involved in any of those negotiations. Roseman was the Eagles’ front man for all three negotiations, as he was for the contract extensions to right tackle Todd Herremans and defensive end Trent Cole.
"Howie really handled exclusively the negotiations for DeSean and Evan and LeSean," Rosenhaus said. "Joe wasn’t directly involved in any of those discussions from the start of the offseason. I actually negotiated (undrafted free agent safety) Phillip Thomas’s contract with Joe. I remember him calling and joking about the fact that he wanted to work on at least one deal with me this offseason."
Reid will never admit it publicly, but he believes letting Jackson go into last season without a new contract was a big reason why the Eagles missed the playoffs last season. The immature Jackson let his contract problems affect his play and also had a ripple effect on the players in the locker room. Reid made it clear at season’s end that he wanted Jackson back. My sense is Banner felt the Eagles would be better off without him.
"We struggled up to this offseason really to get the club to work on an extension with DeSean," Rosenhaus said. "The team really wasn’t aggressive as it related to DeSean’s negotiations until this offseason.
"I don’t know if there was a power struggle or not. There’s no way for me to know that. But I do know that things changed in terms of the Eagles’ approach to DeSean after the season."
Does Rosenhaus think the Eagles are better off with the kinder, gentler approach Roseman has brought to the bargaining table this offseason?
"I’ve always enjoyed working with Howie,’’ he said. "He definitely is a general manager who wants to get deals done, who really has a lot of energy and has a positive approach towards negotiating that, in general, works really well.
"One of the reasons we’ve been successful in working out deals with Howie is that he’s really a straight shooter and he works at it."
Both Roseman and Reid benefit tremendously from Banner’s departure. It enables Roseman a chance to escape the shadow of his former mentor and make his own mark as a front-office executive.
For Reid, it means he finally is a Bill Belichick-like king. While chief executive officer Don Smolenski will take over the day-to-day operations of running the Eagles, this truly is Reid’s ship now for as long as Lurie chooses to keep him around. Which could be just one more year. Or 10 more years, depending on what happens this season.
"There no longer is any doubt who the most powerful guy in the (Eagles) organization is," an executive with another NFC team said. "It’s Andy Reid. And apparently, there wasn’t room for both of them any longer."
Banner has long been acknowledged as one of the league’s top salary cap managers. But with the new collective bargaining agreement, it no longer takes an Einstein to manage the cap.
"I just don’t know what Joe brought to the table anymore,’’ another agent said. "In terms of scouting and personnel, you get that with Howie. In terms of negotiations and managing the cap, between Howie and a guy like (manager of football administration) Jake Rosenberg, where is his value at this point? Especially if he’s not on the same page as the head coach."