Gonzo: Thank Joe Banner for clouding message

"We haven't even laid out a plan," Joe Banner said of the Eagles' quarterback situation. (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)

It seemed pretty clear. And now? Well, now it doesn't.

The Eagles can thank Joe Banner for that.

After the Birds' season ended, Andy Reid held a news conference and was immediately asked what would happen with Donovan McNabb moving forward, whether he would be Reid's quarterback next season or if Reid was thinking about making the switch to the Hog Hunter (more traditionally referred to by his Christian name, Kevin Kolb). Reid normally dodges direct answers the way Asante Samuel avoids physical contact and tackling, but for once he was candid.

"I was asked if Donovan would be my quarterback next year, and I said yes," Reid replied. "That's what I'm saying now."

And that was that . . . until Banner popped his head above ground late last week and invited the media to smack him over the head in an impromptu game of whack-a-mole. Sadly, most of my colleagues declined. Banner's remarks were perplexing and ill-timed and only served to complicate matters, and yet they went largely un-lampooned by area journos. Pity. Jeff McLane rightly pointed out the absurdity on The Inquirer's Eagles blog, Birds Eye View, but he was one of the few who took the time to dissect Banner's curious comments.

Banner's words deserve revisiting. To wit:

"Here's the reality on that," Banner said. "It sounds evasive, but it isn't. . . . We really have not had the meeting to start figuring this stuff out. Obviously we have to do that. . . . Obviously we have to make a decision on what we're going to do. But at this moment, I can tell you that we haven't even laid out a plan or sat down and even exchanged our different ideas or thoughts on that."

Bless his tone-deaf, meddlesome little heart. What would we do during the downtime if Banner wasn't around to kick-start a quick controversy?

First, Reid said the McNabb situation was already determined, then the president came along and muddied his coach's otherwise-crystal-clear comments with the "we have to make a decision on what we're going to do" bit. Banner managed to simultaneously hint McNabb might still be traded and usurp Reid's authority by claiming they haven't "laid out a plan" even though the coach said the decision is ultimately his. Oops. So much for being on message and echoing a predetermined, agreed-upon company line.

The best part about Banner's remarks came shortly after he uttered the bulky, opaque quote above. Banner went on to call Big Red the "decision-maker" and say the head coach's comments were "unambiguous." How ironic, considering Banner's statement couldn't have been hazier.

Maybe it was all a Machiavellian masterstroke by Banner and the organization, a way to help Reid mute his words and give the franchise a vehicle to unload McNabb if they must. That seems improbable, though. More likely, Banner was being typically impolitic. He's fun that way.

McNabb to Minnesota? Arizona? Buffalo? Who knows? Anything could happen between now and when Banner and the aforementioned Planning Committee convene to exchange "different ideas or thoughts on that."

And so it continues, courtesy of our boy Banner.

You know those Rosetta Stone programs that promise to make you fluent in the language of your choice lickety-split? Someone at the NovaCare Complex should see if the company sells one that teaches PR speak. Banner could use some tutoring.

Well, isn't that clever: a Philly.com reader is calling Ed Snider, Ed Stefanski and Eddie Jordan the "Three Ed-ed Monster." And you thought the online comments section was overrun by brain-dead glue-sniffers. . . . Garry Maddox held his annual celebrity charity bowling tournament last week. Here's the intriguing blurb that was listed in the event program for 31-year-old Comcast SportsNet personality Marshall Harris: "A former NFL player for the New England Patriots (1983) and the Cleveland Browns (1980-82), Harris is currently a sports anchor/reporter for Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia." Who knew Harris was in the NFL at all - or that he apparently played pro ball as a 2-year-old? Impressive . . . The Michael Vick Project debuts at 10 tonight on BET. Set your DVRs. Or, better yet, don't. . . . There's an interesting "Ode to Donovan" video on YouTube. (Thanks to our friends at CSN Philly and The700Level.com for bringing it to our attention.) One local fan took the time to list all the ways he adores McNabb. My favorite: "I love the fact that you didn't know a game can end in a tie - great times." Plenty more where that came from: http://tinyurl.com/donovanode . . . Your weekly Page 2 programming reminder: Join your (not so) humble servant on Philly.com tomorrow at 1 p.m. for this week's installment of "Ask Gonzo," a free-form chat about all sorts of sports and pop culture madness. This week's tentative topics: Rex Ryan flipping the finger to some unruly Dolphins fans (way to make Daddy proud, Bubba), Tim Tebow's antiabortion Super Bowl commercial, DeSean Jackson admitting he's "shooting for the top" when it comes to getting a new contract, and why Lady Gaga is the most frightening person on the planet. (Amy Winehouse and Marilyn Manson could procreate - at least in theory - and the offspring wouldn't be half as creepy.) Where's the Sports Wit' night light when you need it?


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.