Philadelphia Eagles News

Lurie, Banner, Smolenski and Reid

Jeffrey Lurie opening remarks: "We're here today to announce an executive succession plan that provides terrific long-term stability and continuity for the team and a great opportunity for Joe as well. This guy sitting on my left here (Joe Banner) is a long-term friend and truly one of the best executives in sports. I think it's probably obvious to most people over the last 18 years that he is outstanding in every capacity and he's unbelievably committed to the franchise. His loyalty and devotion to creating a successful franchise and winning are all of the things you could want in a long-term president.

"What happened in terms of timeline - just to fill everybody in - was that every year, Joe and I get together after every season and we review the status of the organization. It's a very detailed meeting and we go through most key executives. We go through whether each area of the team is as good as it can be. We did that after the 2010 season, as we usually do, and when were having that discussion in January/February of 2011, Joe said, almost anecdotally, 'You know, if somehow I could find something that would be my next great challenge in the sports world.' Similar to what it was when I acquired the team in 1994-95. I listened to him and I said, 'I wish we had something that was the next great opportunity, but that's not the case.'

"We've been obsessed with the Eagles all this time and developing the best possible franchise. We hadn't made any other acquisitions of sports team and we hadn't expanded to English Premier League or the NBA, like some of my fellow owners had. We've been fully obsessed with the franchise in the NFL, and it's been that way. We also agreed in that meeting, as I look back, that we had an outstanding next generation of executives in Don, (general manager) Howie (Roseman), and others that were really prepared and almost overprepared to assume the roles that we had envisioned.

"It's hard to keep great young talent and continuity when other people in other professions realize that you have young stars in your organization. We took all that in, and we said it looks like we're going to be in the middle of what looked to be a long lockout with a lot of CBA issues. We said let's revisit this at the end of the next football season, and that's exactly what we did and it was based off of exactly what we thought. After this season, we got together and looked at the organization, again as we always do. We said now is the perfect time to set the succession plan (in place) and allow Joe to be able to explore some great opportunities that will definitely be out there. At the same time, let's give Howie, as you probably have noticed over the past few months, an increase in responsibilities in terms of player negotiations and salary cap analysis.

"We said, without telling Don, we obviously have the next president in place who will be, without a doubt in anyone in our organization's mind, one of the best presidents in the sports industry as well. That's kind of it all laid out. We had a disappointing football season this past year, and I think other issues got meshed into it in the sense of other people's perceptions that we were going to shake things up or do something. I'm a big believer in continuity and stability when you have terrific people.

"If you don't have terrific people, and me and Joe have been in agreement about this for a long time, you need to make changes. Joe has done that and I have done that over time. We're very, very lucky in that these are amazing people who don't get the limelight and don't get the spotlight. They're not in the sports section every day, as Joe wasn't before he became president of the Eagles, and they're outstanding people. Today is a bittersweet day in a sense because I have to relinquish the responsibilities of an outstanding president and allow him to fly, and in the same sense, he'll be a very important strategic advisor to us as we go forward on some very important initiatives.

"On the other hand, I couldn't be more optimistic about Don Smolenski's opportunities and his succession as president. We have an outstanding young star who we are very confident in. In Howie Roseman, he's been doing the responsibilities that Joe had taken on early on for many months now in player negotiating and salary cap management, so it's seamless. There is no change in coach Reid's status. That's pretty much it. I'd be happy to answer your questions, but first, I'd like to hand it over to Joe next."

Joe Banner opening remarks: "Thank you everybody. Jeff used the word 'bittersweet' and that definitely expresses my feelings. I think many in this room and many listening grew up with a fantasy of being a part of professional sports, probably until we knew our size and skill level as a participant. After that some of us were lucky enough, to get into it in some form, like I was with this organization. (This was) one of the rare times that were able to have a fantasy that they would get to live, and it turns out to be even greater than what the dream was. This has turned out to be an incredible and fantastic what turned out to be an 18-year stint, and leading this organization has been a tremendous joy.

"I'm so appreciative of the call I got from Jeff years ago when he turned his dream into owning a sports franchise into reality and wanted me to come and work with him to do that. It has led to an experience that I never could have even imagined. The hard part for this is just incredible memories and the people we've put together. I've been with Don for 14 years here, Jeffrey 18 years, Andy 14, Howie 13, Christina (Lurie) 18. I can go on and on, you just don't see that. We have lived together through incredible experiences as part of the Eagles. We have lived through our kids growing up together and we have a lifetime of memories together. That part of it is very hard, very emotional, and in some ways, very sad.

"On the other hand, I've been dreaming for the past few years and trying very hard within myself if I wanted to try and take on one more really big challenge in my life, as I felt it was when I decided to come in here and take over this team. I decided that was something I wanted to do, and we were lucky enough to be in the position that Jeff expressed with some really outstanding young people in here who could step in. I feel like the organization would stay strong and even be in position to rise to another level. At the same time, I would have the opportunity to pursue, at this point, what I wanted to do in what would be a bigger challenge. Jeff has been unbelievably supportive in how we got to this moment and is committed to going forward and doing the same thing, which I am incredibly appreciative of.

"I look forward to that, but at the same time, it's sad thinking about the things and especially the people that I will stay friends with and be connected to but in a different way than in the past. I also just want to add my own confidence and optimism in having worked with Don and Howie over the past 14 years, respectively. I think some of you have gotten to know them somewhat, but these are two really outstanding people. I emphasis the word 'people' because they're going to do their jobs well and you'll see that, but this organization is built around people who are caring, kind, honest, who are capable of working as a team and not focused on themselves. They're focused on a broader agenda. We couldn't have two more people who exemplify that more than those two."

Jeffrey Lurie: "Before I introduce and turn it over to Don, which some of you know and some of you don't, I have this image of Don as our chief financial officer and the NFC Championship Game against the Falcons with the giant snowstorm, as you remember. There's a lot of workers out there shoveling all night and we're trying to create a great scene for the NFC Championship Game and it's a disaster in terms of how much snow and all the challenges. It's not every day that you have your chief financial officer out there all night long.

"By the way, it's not just coaches who keep a mattress in their offices. This guy has an air mattress in his office and it's been used every time we've had a crisis at the stadium. He's a 'one of us' kind of guy and a team player extraordinaire. He's smart, nice, of very sound judgement, and savvy, I just think he's going to do a wonderful job. I'd like to introduce Don Smolenski, and for those who don't know him and for those that do, you'll get to see him more often."

Don Smolenski opening remarks: "Good afternoon. I just want to start by expressing my appreciation for Jeffrey for this tremendous opportunity. I have been fortunate enough to work with him for almost 14 years. He's a tremendous owner and has provided us the resources for us to pursue a championship every year, and he has supported me throughout my time with the organization. I also wanted to express my appreciation to Joe. As you heard, Joe and I have been together on a daily basis for 14 years.

"We probably spent more time with each other than we did with our own families. Our offices were across from each other at the Vet, and they're side-by-side here at the Novacare Complex. We've pulled all-nighters working at the stadium, and I've ridden water slides and roller coasters with his kids. We've pretty much shared every moment together during this time. Joe is a mentor, teacher, skilled businessman, and a person of integrity. Most importantly, he's my friend and I'm appreciative of his guidance and support. The organization has an energetic and passionate culture, and you heard Joe talk about our people.

"At every level, there is a complete commitment to pursue a championship for our fans and the city. We recognize that we are stewards of something special, and with Jeffrey's leadership, our focus is to be the best both on and off the field. While I don't have any responsibilities in player personnel, our coach, Howie, and I have a great relationship centered on open communication. In today's NFL, the business operations and the football operations must collaborate together, and that's exactly the relationship we have and that's what will continue going forward. We recognize that we have an unparalleled fan base, and as Andy has said, our fans are knowledgeable and they are completely engaged every game. We feel their energy live and in person every Sunday. Words really can't convey the importance of that support.

"We try to express it in how we carry ourselves and our actions on a daily basis throughout the organization. It's special to be a part of an organization that is so integrated in our community. As is all of our staff, I'm honored to have been a part of it for 14 years, and I'm looking forward to continuing to build upon the foundation that we have to be a great organization in the NFL and in our community."

Andy Reid opening remarks: "I'm fired up to be here for the reason that two men get to fulfill dreams. I know what Joe has wanted to do and has had the opportunity to do, and I know the great things he has done here. He succeeded at being the best president in the National Football League with one of the top organizations. Now, it's time for another challenge, and he's a bulldog. I've said that from day one. The direction that he goes, he will attack and he will defeat and make it right.

"On the other hand, I'm fired up for Don Smolenski for having a dream come true. What a great opportunity to happen to a great person that cares about the city of Philadelphia and cares about the Philadelphia Eagles. I know there have been comments out there about conflict, and it would be a sad note to say that there have been 14 years of terrific conflict. We have gotten along as a group and put things out on the able, have shared, and kept an open book. We've had a great time doing it, and we're terrific friends.

"I'm talking about all of us, but in particular, I'm talking about the things that have been said about Joe and I. There's no truth to that, and we've had a great relationship over this time. We've obviously shared a lot of thoughts and ideas with one another, and obviously we've had a lot of success doing it. As Jeffrey and Joe said, it is bittersweet to some extent, but it'd be selfish to think of the bitter part and make sure it's all sweet going forward. I think the world of the man, and our families have been close and will continue to be close.

"I love the two boys, Jonathan and Jason. His wife – I know as much as he is the president, she is right there, man. She is a tough cookie. I just wish him the best of luck with everything in the future here. Again, I look forward to the working relationship with Howie and Don. Howie and I have already started things off over the last few years here working together and he's done a phenomenal job. You've seen that in this last draft here and in most recent work as far as signing some of our players. With Don, the sky is the limit for him and I can't wait to work with him. I appreciate everyone coming out here today."

On what Banner means by a new challenge: Banner: "At this point, I spend – I estimated earlier today – around 75 percent of my time managing the people that report to me. In the earlier part of my days, I would spend the day hiring staff, working on marketing programs, and building the Novacare Complex, so on and so forth. For me, that was a much greater challenge and a much greater day-to-day business of dealing with people and less of a management role.

"What fits me more and what's more exciting to me as far as waking up in the morning is facing those challenges and doing things that are hard and difficult and really challenging my own skills and the other people around me. When I refer to that, I hope to find a situation where we've kind of used the analogy similar to the way it was when we started here when we viewed it as a turnaround situation. Then, deal with whatever specific challenges are that may be facing in that opportunity, whether it's at the level of where we think we have it here."

On whether it is less about actual competition than being a business aspect: "No. I think it's even more about competition because my role is so much more passive now than it was. Those of you who know me would not particularly describe me as a passive person. I think that something is a bit more intense, competitive, and challenging than mainly serving as a manager will be more challenging and interesting for me."

On whether his role has diminished at all over the years: "I think it's the evolution of where the organization is at. I don't think it's anything in terms of lessening the role. You see around the league that there are some teams who have general managers who have a background that's not with cap and contract negotiations where some teams you have a general manager who has been actively involved in cap and contract negotiations. When you have a team with a general manager who has a background in cap and contract, it'd be crazy not to let that person be the leader and the front person in those areas. The shift, for example, from Tom (Heckert) to Howie and from a general manager who didn't have a background in cap and contract negotiations and one who actually started in that area, it was very natural for him to gradually take complete control over that area.

"It's just the natural evolution, and it's the same thing with Don. Once we're done building stadiums and his expertise amongst many things he's developed over the years operationally in the stadium, staffing, and the Novacare Complex in those areas, it's very natural to continue to give him more things to do. My job became more consulting people on contracts as opposed to actually doing them and with Don reporting to me about how we wanted to do things and let him actually affect the operation as opposed to me being the primary hands-on person. That has resulted in somewhat of a shift but it's been over a number of years, my role shifting from more of a frontline participant into more of a manager. It brought us to this point eventually."

On why the public perception of him and blame he took changed so much over the years: "It's hard to answer. It undeniably does, and there are at times things you don't get right. Some of those things were conspicuous. Somebody asked me today what I'd regret when I looked back and they also asked me what do I cherish, which I'm happy to have it up there. I said some of the players we had here who we really cherished and valued, I used Brian Dawkins as an example, the way situations were handled led to how it was perceived that we didn't cherish and value those players as much as we actually did.

"A few conspicuous examples like that where we did things that contributed, and I in particular did things that contributed, to that perception that probably led to us being a little harder than we attended to be and they think I was when you factor everything together. I also think some of the perception is unfounded and exaggerated, but that's not to say that I don't think there were some mistakes made along the lines."

On whether it is fair to say it will be easier to have just two people on the football side: Lurie: "No, I think we're transitioning to what is very common in the National Football League and a much more traditional structure where there is a GM, there's a coach, and the president is not overseeing contracts and salary cap analysis. We had a unique situation with Joe where he was one of the best in the league in those areas and a president doesn't normally oversee those areas, but how could you not utilize the most talented guy around in those responsibilities. Now, we're in a very much common and traditional structure where there's a coach and a general manager who are the heads of the football operations. Around the league, in almost every case, is the way it operates."

On whether Reid will have more responsibilities: "No, not at all. Andy's responsibilities are exactly the same as before the transition. There is no increase in any aspect of the job and it's Howie who is taking on more responsibilities of the job, as he has for many months now. Those are in the obvious areas: player negotiations and cap structuring and analysis. Those are the two key areas in which Joe brought in a unique sense of awareness and key sense of responsibility, and we now have a very traditional structure where the GM and the coach are the football entity."

On why Banner could not stay on as a cap analyst or contract negotiator: "I think it's two-fold. For one, Joe is looking for a bigger challenge than continuing player negotiations, cap analysis, and being hands on. That was loud and clear when I met with him over a year ago. He wasn't looking to continue the role and he was looking to build something special and change the culture and create a volcanic effect, so to speak, in a franchise that needed it. The evolution of this franchise where you have all these young executives ready for more responsibility, you have a choice.

"You can let them go to other franchises and other sports, or you can give them more responsibility and more long-term stability. My allegiance has to be, in the end, to what is best to the organization because that's whats best for our fans. Long-term stability and promoting excellent people is the responsibility of the CEO to make sure that's in place. That's really what it is."

On whether Banner would limit himself to just football: Banner: "My passion is football. I don't want to close the doors in not knowing what the opportunities will be or how realistic what I want to try and do is, but I have an incredible passion for football. I just love the game and the jigsaw puzzle part of the chess game. My efforts will really be focused on staying and trying to do something in the NFL."

On whether he has heard from or contacted any other organizations: Banner: "I've had calls in the last 24 hours from people who have heard what I'm talking about doing and interested in getting together and talking about it."

Lurie: "Let me just add that if I were looking to buy an NFL franchise or any sports franchise, or was an owner that wasn't feeling his organization wasn't maximizing, this is a phenomenal opportunity to find an executive that could do everything to make you successful. Whatever Joe chooses, hes going to be very successful and there's no question about it. A lot of people at a similar age, they may want to count their successes and relax more and head into a slower version of retirement. This guy is the opposite. I have so much respect for him and he's ready for something that is stimulating, challenging, and difficult. We should all be so lucky to have that adrenaline to be so motivated and smart. I can't imagine having someone not take advantage of the opportunity of what he wants to pursue."

On whether this transition has taken place over time: "I think you hit on something absolutely right. There's been no question that Joe and I implemented a plan where Howie was going to take on the responsibilities that we would transition to. He has been doing it since the end of the season, so on the football side this is old news. Internally, we have been operating this way for the past several months. Joe has given Don more and more responsibilities over the years, but it wasn't until recently even though Joe and I knew that he would be the successor, Don didn't know. The responsibilities, I think they can speak about it, have been increasing over many, many months if not years."

On why they chose this time to make this public: "We thought of doing it at the beginning of the league year, but we thought why not wait until after free agency and after the draft. The slowest period of the year for all of us is the June and July period, and we targeted June months ago as the ideal time. It seemed to provide the time with the least amount of urgency in terms of what is actually going on with the football schedule."

On Banner's legacy of his time in Philadelphia: Banner: "It's hard to answer that question yourself. What is important to me and what I take the most pride in is the organization that we have put together here. It's just phenomenal people who are hard working and passionate about the mission of the organization, caring about our fans, and being involved in the community. It's just really, really great people. I say often, and people in the organization will say that I talk all the time, the only thing that separates each team in the league is who works there. We're all shells that get filled in by the difference we create by who's there.

"I've always said the biggest thing I bring to the table here is who to hire and how to position them to be as successful as they possibly can be. I hope people will think that the organization was passionate, it cared, it was integrated beyond one simple mission, in other words we care about the community and we're proud of the awards we've won in that area. My own personal contribution is much less significant than what the masses are contributing and what we've built here." 

On whether having one less voice on the football side of things made it easier for him to have one voice: Reid: "I would say that's a negative there. I would not say that. We've always kept everything open. Everybody's had a say. People have made a big deal about me having the final say, but we've always made sure that we've kept it open and everybody was able to speak his opinion. From my standpoint, the people who have been speaking are sharp people, very intelligent people, very knowledgeable people. To say that taking Joe out of that mix, that one extra person out of that mix, I don't think that would be a fair statement to say that it's going to make it smoother or anything. I don't see that. That's what's going to carry him on to continuing to be great."

On whether having one fewer voice allows him to shape the team the way he wants to more effectively: "I would tell you that the way I've envisioned the team is the way that it has taken place here over the years. Has every year been as successful as I wanted it to be, or we wanted it to be? No. In particular this last year. So I take responsibility for that. It's not because of an extra person in the mix or not an extra person in the mix. I think things will go well and again I look forward to continuing to work with Howie and Don and bringing our fans a good football team, a great football team."

On why he decided to step back from doing interviews: Banner: "I think if you listen to Jeff's answer about the plan that the two of us had agreed on when we spoke last spring, that was just reflective of just gradually stepping back myself, putting Howie and Don forward more and more, whether that be publicly or in different responsibilities. So I think that was a reflection of the plan that we had developed, that you were just seeing that kind of tip of the iceberg there."

On whether there were ever any situations where Banner challenged a personnel decision: Reid: "I've had full support from Jeffrey, Joe and Howie on all the decisions that have been made. I had final say on the decisions. All the good ones. Joe did all the bad ones (jokingly). No, listen, I had final decision on all of them. I've been asked that every year. That's not the case."

On how he evaluates Reid's coaching last season: Banner: "Great."

On his vision of the team off the field: Lurie: "It's our obsession to be the very best franchise for our fans. Servicing your fans first, that's the number one thing. Whether it's what we can do at Lincoln Financial Field, what we can do communicating with them, what we can do with the product we put on the field, what we can do in the community. Locally and regionally and nationally and internationally. A complete dedication to making Philadelphia proud of their NFL franchise. Continuing and (getting) bigger and better. I think all the ingredients are in place. Don is an incredibly intuitive and accomplished executive in our organization. This would not be able to happen if I didn't have an outstanding executive ready to be in this role and to just give you a long-winded answer to a short question, I tend to surround myself with, I think, very bright, but opinionated people.

"I don't want yes-men. I don't want people who aren't willing to ask tough questions. I don't have all the answers, I don't have that kind of ego, I like to be challenged and I like to have a variety of viewpoints. Joe has fulfilled that, Don has fulfilled that. Anyone who knows Howie, he is a barrel of opinions and energy and will never back down on what he truly feels. One of the successes and real keys to Andy Reid is a combination of being genuine, honest, and truly speaks from his own opinion. That, to me, is what is crucial. So, yes, (I'm) very optimistic going forward, but we have much more work to do to make this an outstanding franchise."

On his vision of the team: Smolenski: "Just to elaborate on that, the primary focus is to win a championship. That's the drive, the passion, the motivation for everyone in the entire organization. Coupled with that, one of the principles is being leaders. We talked about being leaders on and off the field, we look for leaders in both respects. We are a fabric of the community and this city is our home.

"We know that there's a special relationship with our fans and it's going to nurture and develop and continue to enhance and expand. They provide the life force, the energy that drives each and every one of us. We see that in a lot of ways. We look forward to continuing that. Our efforts in the community, whether it's environmental programs, our programs through Eagles Youth Partnership, that's also a big part of our vision and continuing that as we go forward."

On when he found out about his promotion: "I found out a week ago. It's the whole spectrum of emotions. There was excitement, elation. I think Andy said it, with respect to being bitter and sweet. Not focusing on the bitter, but focusing on the sweet. I don't like the word bitter because I don't like the connotation. The relationship that Joe and I have is unique. The amount of time that we've spent together, we know each other right down to our core values. For all the pride and excitement that you're feeling, you're also feeling for your friend. That's a tough thing to work through and it took a bit to sink in and absorb and digest, but it did. I guess since Joe and I have an office side by side and our relationship has been so open, we support one another, and that's a big part of what has carried me through these last seven days for sure."

On why Roseman isn't on stage for the press conference: Lurie: "The only reason Howie isn't up here is because he was promoted to general manager years ago and it's really been a subtle transition because he has had these responsibilities. This is not new news with Howie. He has been actively engaged, and as I've said before, in everything a general manager is doing for our team. He'll be available after this press conference fully."

On how difficult it is for him to walk away without winning a Super Bowl: Banner: "First of all, I'm still here. It's hard. The only person until we executed this that I've discussed this with is Jeffrey. So, any discussions about that when this first came up, Jeff said 'Are you sure?' And I took a breath and said I was sure. There is no doubt that there's a huge hole in this experience, as amazing as it's been, having not won a Super Bowl. I think we have as good a chance this year, if not better than we've ever had, and I think there's a reasonable chance I'll still be here through that. That's the biggest emptiness from the experience, to have not actually produced that thrill for this city, for the fans and for ourselves."

On whether he thinks this is more of exhaustion or wanderlust: "I don't have any of the latter. I feel there is an unknown about what I'm going to do and there will be a known about what I'm going to do in that there will be some significant challenge in sports. Whether it will be exactly my first choice, I'm not worried about that at all. I feel confident it will be interesting and something I'll be very stimulated to do. It's more about waking up in the morning and what are you doing for the next eight, 10, 12 hours?

"Are you excited about it, is it challenging, are you making a real difference? In my experience, and what attracts me, are you taking something and turning it around? Are you taking something that maybe was heading in the wrong direction and getting it in the right direction? It's about what drives me personally, it's not a right or wrong or anything. That's what excites me, that's what gets my adrenaline flowing, it maximizes my pleasure in the job."

On the dynamic between him and Roseman and why it has worked so well: Reid: "Howie and I get along well, we have a great relationship. Howie is obviously sharp, he has been very well trained by Joe and he puts in tremendous hours and effort to do his job to the best of his ability. That's really the answer to that question. I would be remised to say that Joe and I, in the same relationship there, didn't have a lot of players that were also signed here. Great players, from even before I got here. The Troy Vincents of the world and so on, you can keep going with the names. These were players that Joe was directly responsible for bringing to Philadelphia and throughout the duration of my career here."

On how important it was to see Roseman succeed in his role before allowing a move like this to happen: Lurie: "Joe and I were incredibly confident about Howie and Don, but of course it gives you even more increased comfort that once Howie had these responsibilities that things were done extremely professionally and effectively and successfully. Honestly, between Joe and me, we had zero doubt that Howie would thrive in these roles, just as we have zero doubt that Don will thrive in his new role."

On whether physical or mental burnout ever occurred: Banner: "No, absolutely not. In fact, what is happening is a result of the still-burning desire I still have to work hard and make a difference and do something special."

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