Bob Ford: Reid has done more for Banner than vice versa

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Andy Reid has taken the Eagles to five NFC Championship games in his tenure as head coach. (Michael Bryant / Staff File Photo)

As much as everyone involved would avoid saying so - and the Eagles' organization measures its words like a scientist handling sulfuric acid - the professional relationship between Joe Banner and Andy Reid has not yielded equal benefits for both.

The team president and the head coach have enjoyed the club's general success for more than a decade, but it would be fair to say Banner, and owner Jeff Lurie, have gotten more out of Reid than the other way around.

For reference, you have to look only at where the franchise was when Reid was hired and where it is now.

After the 1998 season, when Ray Rhodes was fired following a torpid 3-13 year in which the Eagles finished last in a five-team NFC East, the owner-front office tandem of Lurie and Banner had been in place for five seasons and the nose of the plane was not pointing up. In fact, it was very nearly a disaster.

Lurie bought the team in May 1994 and fired Rich Kotite after one season, bringing Rhodes aboard after that. There was moderate success for two years, but Rhodes had neither the power nor the organizational skills to keep those gains from eroding.

Around the league, Eagles management had developed a reputation for meddling and for being somewhat, uh, parsimonious. Reputations are never fair in a losing situation, and that characterization might have been overdrawn, but it was definitely there.

Trying to turn things around quickly, Lurie and Banner targeted Green Bay's Mike Holmgren as the coach they really wanted to land. Holmgren was leaving the Packers, and he flew around the country entertaining offers. He didn't put a stop in Philadelphia on his itinerary, however, and signed instead as the coach and general manger of the Seattle Seahawks.

Going to Plan B, Lurie, Banner, and football operations director Tom Modrak interviewed Jim Haslett, Dom Capers, Willie Shaw, and a 40-year-old Green Bay assistant named Andy Reid. The last name on that list was the quarterbacks coach under Holmgren and had never even been a coordinator in the NFL.

"They've all done it, and I haven't done it," Reid told reporters after his first interview in Philadelphia, speaking of the other candidates but also former Holmgren assistants like Jon Gruden, Rhodes, and Steve Mariucci who went on to top jobs. "Do I think I can do it? Sure, I think I can do it. I have a lot of confidence in myself. It's hard to explain without knowing me. I firmly believe that if you hang around me for a while, you'll understand why I've been put in this position."

Well, now we know him, and now we know exactly what he was talking about. Systematically, Reid built a football side to the organization that grew quickly and has usually maintained competitive excellence.

Banner gets his rightful due as the contract and salary-cap whiz who helped mesh the front office's philosophy with Reid's vision, but there's no question who turned around the ship. In other words, Banner didn't get any smarter when Reid arrived. He had been using the same tools for five seasons without much success.

As has been famously told and retold, Reid knocked them over with his interview with the three-inch ring binder labeled "Head Coach" that Reid had been preparing for years. He didn't just have the outlines of a plan. He had details of the plan right down to a minute-by-minute description of how long meetings would last, how practices would be conducted, and what would be served in the lunch room. Suffice to say the Kotite and Rhodes eras were not that fussy about such details.

So, they bought in willingly. The second interview was a formality, and Reid put the whistle around his neck and went to work in the dank corridors of Veterans Stadium.

He had seen worse, but not by much. When Holmgren hired him in 1992, the Packers were is similar disarray. For reference, after getting a look at the Eagles' facilities and the woeful state of the franchise, Reid went back and read his journals from that humble start.

"I wrote about walking into the office for the first time," Reid said. "The drapes looked like they'd been there since Vince Lombardi. The walls were kind of a yellow-green, a putrid-looking color. The weight room was not even as good as I was used to at a college level. I thought, 'Boy, we're really going to have to be good to get this thing right.' I asked myself for a second if I had made a mistake."

Holmgren knew what he was doing, however, got lucky immediately with a young quarterback named Brett Favre, and Reid was right there taking notes every step. By the time the Eagles hired Reid, he had seen the transformation take place, and if he ever wondered if taking the job was a misstep, it never showed. Judging by the man's personality, it probably never crossed his mind.

That's a long time ago now. Reid's own quarterback selection has come and gone and, the team enters into a sharply demarcated second era this season. Over the years, the power balance between Reid and Banner has certainly shifted. Reid gathered all the football-operations power once Modrak left, but some of that has apparently tilted back toward the front office in the last several seasons.

Whenever this partnership between president and coach ends, whether soon or way down the road, it will be remembered as very successful. But it is always worth remembering, as well, that the success didn't start until the second guy arrived.

 


Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read

his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.