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Banner Addresses Big-Picture Issues

Eagles President Joe Banner cleared the air in an extensive interview on Thursday on Philadelphia sports talk radio station 97.5 The Fanatic, discussing a wide range of topics with host Mike Missanelli. Banner was informative, frank and, hopefully, able to put to rest any fears Eagles fans have about the direction of the franchise.

Banner raised a reaction within some circles of the media and fans a couple of weeks ago when asked on Sportsradio 610 to compare the success of the Eagles with that of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Banner's answer was misconstrued by some who suggested Banner believes the Eagles have been as successful as the Steelers or that the franchise is "satisfied" with its record to date, so he set the record straight on Thursday.

"Let me start with - I'm never politically correct so - I did not say that and maybe more importantly I do not believe that," said Banner. "It's unfortunate that it spins and creates kind of a week of controversy and criticism when people re-frame what you say so that it serves that purpose. I'll read you a couple of quotes from what I said ... it's true that included in my answer was that we've made the playoffs more often, that we've made it 9 out of 11 years because I didn't feel it was fair to characterize it as if the Steelers have had massive success and we've had none.

"I thought what's fair is to say that the Steelers have made massive success and we've had some. So I said things like, 'The ultimate goal is winning the Super Bowl and there's no question they've been more successful at that than we have.' Then I said at a later point, 'They've been more successful at getting to the Super Bowl than we have and that's the ultimate goal.' At one point I said, 'I would trade their success for ours and I know our fans would, too. I'd trade these playoff appearances for their Super Bowl appearances any time.'

"So, it's true I included the other information about our track record, which I think is relevant in measuring the gap, but including the quotes I just said, I just think it's no way, and as I said maybe more importantly, I'm here to be interviewed by you and tell you I do not believe and I do not believe it is fair to characterize what I said as saying that I believe our success is equal. I don't know how (I) could say 'I would trade our success for theirs, I would trade our playoff appearances for their Super Bowl appearances' and have somebody walk away from that quote and claim that you were trying to equate the two organizations. It's clear I said they were better. It's also clear that I wasn't comfortable as making it sound as if we've had no achievements that we had a right to feel good about."

Missanelli then asked Banner about the perception that fans have when Banner looks to justify the team's success even though the Eagles have yet to win a Super Bowl. Banner provided a very precise answer, emphasizing that at no point have the Eagles shown they are content with their wins and losses minus the Lombardi Trophy.

"I'm very aware that people perceive that. I'm painfully aware that people perceive that. I'm not sure what more we can do to refute that than what we've tried to do in operating the team. This actually came up in the interview," said Banner. "I mentioned that in 2003 we'd been to three straight  (NFC) Championship games and went out and signed Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse. Is that what somebody is doing who's coming to a Championship game returning all of their starters and doesn't really care about winning a Super Bowl? I think we committed about $50 million in guaranteed money to the two players.

"A couple years ago we came out of Arizona having played in the Championship Game; the next offseason we picked up Jason Peters, Leonard Weaver, I forget all the players, but we made a significant number of offseason move ... this season we could have been content. We were 10-5, didn't play anybody in the last game (against Dallas), we're returning guys, we've had some excitement in the season. Already we've changed a significant number of people on the coaching staff. You can agree or disagree with it, but we could have been content to say, 'We're good. We'll be good again next year. We don't have to rock the boat. We don't have to hire new people. We don't have to hire some very high-quality, very expensive coaches to try to upgrade the team. We'll probably have a good team next year without them.'

"So I just feel like forget what I say. If people watch what we do, I just think the evidence that we really care, that we understand it's about winning Super Bowls is there and I don't know what else we can do. I'd love to hear what else we can do to affect the perception, I'm a big believer actions speak louder than words so I'm not asking people to listen to me on the radio and change their opinion. You see, I get criticized frankly for not doing many interviews because we're not out there trying to sell this notion -- although obviously when I get interviewed I'm not going to not try to put our best foot forward."

Much of the rest of the conversation centered on head coach Andy Reid. He has been here for 12 years. The Eagles have made the playoffs nine times in those 12 seasons, and have reached five NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl. They have changed virtually everything around Reid -- the coaching staff, the general manager, the roster -- and there are some who wonder why Reid has survived despite no title.

Banner explained the thinking.

"Our goal is to win a Super Bowl. It is the only thing that was on our list when we started this, which included things like building stadiums and training facilities and winning our division and being in championship games to winning championship games ... the big, glaring thing that was No. 1 on the list is winning the Super Bowl. So when we sit down and discuss this internally, the question is, 'Do we believe that Andy Reid is capable of winning the Super Bowl?' That's the first part. 'Do we believe that he is more capable than any of the options that are available to us?'

"Now, I understand that there are people who believe the answer is 'no.' By the way, there are a lot of fans who believe the answer to that question is 'yes.' If we thought the answer to that question was 'no,' we would make a coaching change. At this point we still feel very confidently that the answer to that question is 'yes.' ... for us, that's the criteria. And you can totally disagree and that's totally fair."

Reid's track record speaks for itself. He is the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL, and he has had more long-term success than any in head coach in the history of the franchise. Reid is in charge of football operations here and he has not lost his base of power. The Eagles have a great front-office relationship, a formula that works and, yes, they have not reached the ultimate goal.

It is a source of frustration for everyone. It is the motivation to come to work every day and work endless hours in the pursuit of the Lombardi Trophy. The Eagles have a strong roster, a good team, and they have a lot going for them as the offseason shapes up.

The rest of the interview dealt with the promotion of Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator, and at one point Missanelli wondered why "outside eyes" weren't more part of the equation for the defense.

Said Banner: "The shock and the skepticism we anticipate and we understand. It is kind of a prove-it-to-me situation. There is nothing I can say and there is nothing I should be able to say that can prove it was the right decision. Our belief is that we changed our safety coach, we changed our cornerback coach -- a former defensive coordinator (Johnnie Lynn) from outside the organization -- we changed our defensive line coach, we changed our quality-control coaches ... three of the five primary voices of the defense are new to the organization and all five of them are new to their role in the organization -- Mike Caldwell wasn't the linebackers coach last year, he was helping with the linebackers, and Mike Zordich wasn't the safeties coach.

"So, every single defensive coach wasn't in that position last year. So to think that we didn't want and succeed in bringing in some fresh eyes .. we think is a real mischaracterization."

Let's hope that what Banner said -- some of it repeating what he said a couple of weeks prior -- makes it clear for everyone. You can agree or disagree with the moves. The success the team has moving forward will tell that tale. But the main emphasis here is this, as Banner has said for years: The Eagles are trying. They are doing everything they can do to win a Super Bowl. Capturing the Lombardi Trophy is the only goal that has eluded this franchise since Jeffrey Lurie bought it in 1995 and since Reid became the head coach in 1999. That objective looms large every day in hallways of the NovaCare Complex.

To think otherwise is to ignore the facts, as Banner so succinctly spelled out once again.

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