It was a jolting announcement to many on Thursday morning when it became public that Joe Banner would no longer serve as the team's president. For so long, Banner has been the mover and shaker of the Eagles as they transitioned from one of the NFL's lower rungs into a shining example of how a sports team needs to operate on and off the field.
Banner joined forces with Jeffrey Lurie when Lurie purchased the Eagles in 1994 and together they set about changing the culture for a lagging franchise and a despondent fan base that had tired of the Norman Braman years.
Banner was known publicly as the "salary-cap genius" and that was very much true. He figured out a way to stretch the limits of the salary cap when other teams were struggling to stay above water with their finances. Banner and the Eagles worked the cap, maximized the roster and for the most part since the 1995 season have been in the playoffs and have been, thus, Super Bowl contenders.
But there is a whole lot more to Banner than the sheer numbers. He is a visionary who is largely responsible for much of what you see today with the Eagles: The beautiful Lincoln Financial Field, the state-of-the-art NovaCare Complex, a business structure hailed among the leaders in all sports and even, if I may be so bold to suggest, a website and media content group that is second to none in any arena.
Banner has been the primary manager of all of this through the years. Now the landscape in the Eagles organization is changing, and changing in dramatic fashion: Banner is stepping aside as the team's president to take a role as Strategic Advisor to the Owner. Don Smolenski, a brilliant behind-the-scenes man for many years, is promoted to President and will oversee the business operations of the organization.
Howie Roseman continues as the team's General Manager and is in partnership with head coach Andy Reid in handling all things football: Talent evaluation and acquisition, salary-cap duties, contracts, everything.
You are sitting there as an Eagles fan saying, "OK, what does this mean for me? What does it mean for the Eagles' chances of winning a Super Bowl?"
I think it's going to be a relatively seamless transition. Smolenski is well versed in all aspects of the Eagles' business side and has been right there with Banner during the stadium negotiations and the expansion of the organization and the ever-changing times in the NFL. Smolenski has a strong team of upper-management leaders around him, members of the organization who have been here and who know the way it works, and the expectations of excellence the Eagles have in every phase of the operation. That part isn't going to change. The Eagles are going to continue to push the limits with their marketing efforts, with their community outreach, with their sales initiatives. Each day brings a new challenge and a new goal to reach.
From a football standpoint, it's business as usual. Reid and Roseman have a terrific roster in place, a fantastic program with great stability. Roseman has handled contracts and free agency and the draft and the waiver wire with his staff over the years and has grown very nicely into the job. He and Reid see things the same way and have the same vision of what they want in a football team.
There is, internally, no animosity with this change. Banner is in a great place, with his next steps beyond the Eagles to be determined. He wants to perhaps get into an ownership position again, elsewhere, and build from the ground up, something he did so expertly here. He and Lurie will always be great friends. At the same time, it is time for Smolenski to rise in the business world and he is now the team's President, one who commands and deserves respect from everyone. He deserves the promotion.
Banner's door remains wide open. He will continue to be a presence here at One NovaCare Way, even if the public doesn't see it. You only see so much, of course. You don't see the Banner who inspires his people to be the best we can be, or the Banner who slumps with disappointment after a tough loss, or the one who is open with hugs and high fives when worker conflict is resolved. You don't see the Banner who wants to know how you and the family are doing or the one who gives your department the green light to build the best product in the marketplace.
On a personal level, I have nothing but thanks for Joe Banner. He hired me, along with my immediate boss at the time, Len Komoroski, now the President of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Banner helped me see a different world of media, one far beyond the words I type. His door as always been open to hear my complaints, my requests, my concerns and, ultimately, what I needed to build what you see on PhiladelphiaEagles.com today. He has gotten on my case plenty of times and we have disagreed more times than I can count. He has taken me into his trust through all of the years.
All Banner ever wanted from me and my department is to have the best experience possible for the fans. "What's best for the fans, Dave?" That has always been his take-away question.
You see the Banner who fervently defends the work he and the Eagles have done every day since 1994 to build this franchise into one of the best in sports, supported by the best fans in sports in the hungriest, most passionate sports city in the country. For that, Banner deserves nothing but praise.
A huge change has occurred within the Eagles organization. There is no denying that. Joe Banner is an architect who has helped build the Eagles into a model organization. As with every great business, though, there is a line of succession, a plan of action for change. The Eagles are enacting that change now, turning various aspects of the team over to men who have learned from the best and who are ready to take the Eagles to even higher ground.
This isn't a move that most football fans point to as vital in a team's next step. This isn't a new quarterback moving into the starting lineup. This isn't the signing of a big-name free agent.
This is a change in the way the Eagles conduct their business, mostly off the field. The football side of the organization isn't going to flinch. Reid and Roseman have it all under control. The business side is ready to take off into new, exciting ventures with Smolenski in the lead role. He learned from the best in Joe Banner, and is ready to apply his own signature to the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.