Will Banner Wield Cleaver in Cleveland?

Few tears were shed by Eagles players or fans when Joe Banner stepped down as team president. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

BETHLEHEM -- With former Eagles president Joe Banner expected to become president of the Cleveland Browns any minute now, NFL observers seem to think he will immediately clean house at the Browns’ front office. I guess I can buy that Browns prez Mike Holmgren can start packing, because Banner is going to take that role.

But two things on the rest of the operation:

1. Nobody fires their football people en masse in August or September. That would be chaos. It would also send a really bad message to the whole organization and the fans – that you don’t give people a chance, that you rule capriciously.

2. Who, exactly, are Joe Banner’s football people, who would swoop in to replace the fired folks? I posed this question to someone who knows Banner well, and he had no answers. Most of the football guys who have left the Eagles over the years left on no better terms with Banner than with anyone else; Tom Modrak almost certainly isn’t booking any Cleveland flights. Ditto Jason Licht. Mike Lombardi was an Eagles personnel guy back in the ‘90s, and he had a good relationship with Banner, but Lombardi has been out of the league and on TV for five years now. And no organization is letting anybody under contract leave, even for a better job, in August or September.

So, I don’t think Cleveland GM Tom Heckert is going anywhere this season. Will he stay on long-term? Banner knows Heckert, who, of course, ran personnel for the Eagles. I never got the impression they were close. I think Banner will do what a smart, prudent leader does – he will use the season to assess and explore, talk to people, figure out what he has and what he needs. Change will probably be less sweeping and abrupt than some folks seem to think.

Here’s a thought, totally off the top of my head: Some of the people closest to Banner in this business are agents. (No, not Drew Rosenhaus.) It is not unheard of in the NFL for someone to change sides of the fence. I would not be shocked if Joe went that way to fill an executive post, eventually.

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