When Joe Banner left the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex offices last night, his last as team president, he said he paused to look back on a gleaming facility with first class offices, a welcoming locker room and cafeteria where players can eat comfortably and healthily.
It was a lot different than his first day as president, when he walked into crumbling Veterans’ Stadium, when the Eagles were a bottom-dwelling franchise with facilities that were a punchline.
Banner hopes his next step helps him similarly turn around another NFL team.
“I want to stay in the NFL … I love football,” Banner said in an interview shortly before a scheduled Thursday afternoon press conference. “My hope is to become part of a group that’s going to buy a team.”
He specified that he hopes to walk into a “turnaround situation,” where Banner can try to find the people and the steps to take a struggling franchise and make it competitive.
Banner said he doesn’t have a specific team in mind, and there are several challenges – first and foremost finding people willing to put up the money to buy a team and ready to entrust him with control. That may appeal to some who don’t want to get involved in the day-to-day grind of running a franchise, but plenty of wealthy people who want to own sports teams also want to run them their own way.
Banner acknowledged these challenges but said he would delve into the issue “quickly and aggressively,” though it could be months and months before he can find the right situation, and even then buying a team presents challenges. Jeffrey Lurie, for example, was outbid trying to buy the Patriots before he eventually got the Eagles.
Banner disputed the notion that he was pushed out or punished for last season’s failures. He said that at 59 he knows he doesn’t have much time to pursue his idea so, he said, he began talking to Lurie about moving on before last season even began.
Asked about widespread criticism that Banner was too tough a negotiator – taking a win at all costs mentality to negotiations, sometimes to the detriment of relationships with players – Banner acknowledged sometimes overplaying his hand.
“Occasionally, maybe you got too tough,” he said.
But Banner said he wanted to be perceived as tough but fair and contended that he had good relationships with agents, pointing out that the Eagles have “a very good batting average” at bringing in free agents.
Got to run to the press conference -- we’ll have more later online and in tomorrow’s Inquirer.