THERE IS NOW a fifth sports season in Philadelphia.
Most years, like this one, it begins in mid-January and rolls through February.
For lack of a better moniker, call it Banner season, although by definition it has nothing to do with banners, at least championship ones.
It's not really about answers either, or solutions.
Eagles president Joe Banner will be on WIP this morning, continuing his trophyless tour of media outlets. Last night, Comcast SportsNet aired for almost 30 minutes his interview with Michael Barkann. Our not-so-fearless "Daily News Live" leader did all right, but what he really needed was for Jerry Springer to bust onto the set at some point and scream, "Why the hell didn't you trade for Tony Gonzalez!?"
Barkann didn't ask that, or about Roy Williams, or even about how a Super Bowl-aspiring team could enter the season with Tony Hunt and Dan Klecko as their fullback options.
Anyway, as far as I can tell, the basic theme of Banner's tour is that he feels your pain, understands your perennial frustrations this time of year and plans to do . . . well, nothing really.
No change of coach, no change of quarterback, no sacking of general manager Tom Heckert. He says you people are on board with that. Citing an outside organization hired by the team, he claimed, "The popularity of Andy Reid in this city is as high as any coach in any sport in the country.
"The popularity of Donovan McNabb is as high as any athlete almost anywhere ever here in Philadelphia."
Really, he said that.
So take that, Charlie Manuel and Brad Lidge.
In almost the next breath, though, while paralleling the careers of the Eagles coach to former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden, Banner said this:
"In Oakland, that got him elected to the Hall of Fame. In Philadelphia that gets Andy, at least from the public's perspective, uncertain about his job's future."
Which is it: Do we love the man more than any coach in America?
Or do we want him canned?
Banner seems to get caught often between what he should say and what he wants to say. Probably because he and Jeffrey Lurie came into town a decade-and-a-half ago with all that gold-standard hooey, he knows he has to say that anything less than a Super Bowl championship is unacceptable. So he does, repeatedly.
"Valid" is a word he used several times in last night's broadcast when he addressed your criticisms of his coach, his quarterback, and his infrastructure. In almost the next breath, there is invariably a "but" or an "on the other hand," and by the end of the answer the only thing clear is that he doesn't see too much that needs to be fixed here.
Such as when Barkann asked him whether Reid wore too many hats as coach and de facto GM, Banner called it "a totally valid question," then said, "The key to the answer to the question is the quality of the people he surrounded himself with. Andy's got three coordinators . . . who are exceptional and independent and people he has tremendous confidence [in].
"He has Tom Heckert, he has Howie Roseman [vice president of player personnel]. He has a whole staff of pro and college personnel people he has a lot of confidence in. Hopefully I help him with the cap a little bit, so he feels like I've got tremendous help in all three of these areas. So really what we do for Andy is, we kind of narrow the width of the question, and then get him focused on the things that he has to evaluate - watch film on, make decisions on - and he feels very confident in the people kind of narrowing the question. If he was trying to do all of those things and was surrounded with mediocre people, or less quantity even of good people, then it probably wouldn't be a manageable situation."
So . . . Banner sees quality where some see mediocrity. Reid's drafts have been, to most, more miss than hit. His game management has been an issue that does not seem to improve. He has been stubborn about his pass-first playcalling.
"I don't have concerns about the number of hats he's wearing," Banner concluded.
He also said, "We're not opposed to having one of those guys," when Barkann asked him about obtaining an elite receiver like Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin, but he also said, "Can you win without one of those guys? Absolutely."
Well, that seems to be his plan right now. No big receiver in the horizon, no new coach or new quarterback or new semi-GM. No change of duties for Reid, Heckert and Roseman.
"We can win a championship with those people and they will be back, and I've gone on to say that we believe we're very lucky to have them," Banner said. "The good news is, that's overwhelmingly the view of our fans." *
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