On the surface, sure, the news was cataclysmic. Joe Banner? Leaving the Eagles? First reaction was ... ommigod, this is huge.
Then you think about it a bit.
And you realize that Banners true impact on franchise operations, negatively and positively, came during his first decade here and that the day-to-day operations of the team the decisions that ultimately determine what we see on the field when the Eagles play the Giants or the Cowboys have little to do anymore with Banner.
Banners visionary salary cap work and pioneering discovery of CBA loopholes during his early years here gave the Eagles the flexibility to spend more money than any other team each off-season and the ability to land big-time players like Troy Vincent, Jon Runyan, Jevon Kearse, Asante Samuel, Jason Peters, Terrell Owens, Nnamdi Asomugha, etc.
His brilliant organizational skills led to the construction of a world-class stadium in Lincoln Financial Field and a state-of-the-art office and practice complex across the street at the NovaCare Complex.
His remarkable ability to target, evaluate and develop potential high-level employees helped the Eagles find an unknown quarterbacks coach that became the most successful head coach in franchise history and turn a lowly intern who shared a desk with a secretary into a general manager.
Certainly Banners mistakes also had a profound effect on the franchise. He meddled too much in personnel early on before quickly learning to leave the football decisions to the football people. His mishandling of the Brian Dawkins negotiation caused the Eagles to lose one of the greatest players in franchise history, one of the locker rooms only leaders and still at that point a very productive safety.
Love him or hate him, you cant deny Banners vast influence over the Eagles during his 18 years here. More than anybody, more even than owner Jeff Lurie, Banner was truly the architect of a franchise thats reached the playoffs 11 times in the last 17 years and averaged 10 wins a year since 1995, fifth-best in the NFL during that span.
All that said, it was clear that Banners role had transformed over the last few years to the point where his day-to-day impact on the product on the football field was reduced to almost nothing.
Banner gradually transitioned from a visionary into an administrator, and thats one of the reasons he wanted to leave to find new challenges and also one of the reasons his departure is in reality not that big a deal to the football operation.
Consider some of the other front-office shakeups over the years.
When Banner was promoted from executive vice president to the previously vacant position of team president, it was a clear signal that he had become the franchises most powerful figure.
When Andy Reid won his power struggle with Tom Modrak, it fundamentally changed the way the franchise ran and the way players were selected. Reid assumed full control over personnel matters, becoming one of the most powerful coaches in the league.
When Howie Roseman replaced Tom Heckert, it altered the whole front office dynamic, signaling Rosemans ascension to power as Reids most trusted adviser, the teams lead contract negotiator and chief of the entire scouting and personnel operation, and a far more powerful GM than Heckert had ever been.
All those moves fundamentally affected what we saw on the field. The players, the coaches, the schemes. The touchdowns and turnovers. The wins and losses.
Banner? For a guy whos been here nearly 20 years, whos made as profound an impact on the franchise as anybody in a generation, his changing role and pending departure wont have much an impact at all on what we all see on Sunday afternoons.
The gradual shift of power over the last few years from Banner to Roseman, his hand-picked successor, has meant Banners impact on the franchise has been muted and has been directed in areas that only tangentially affect the product on the field.
This isnt a knock on Banner. Its just the natural evolution of the franchise and Joes role. In recent years, hes worked on projects such as Eagles Youth Partnership, the Eagles Tackling Breast Cancer initiative, corporate sponsorships, the evolution of training camp. Important stuff but no longer stuff that really has a bearing on the team, the players, the coaches.
Howie and Andy pick the players and coaches. Howie does the contracts. Andy coaches on game day. This is their baby now and has been for a while.
Banner will find a new challenge, a new project, a new franchise that needs an architect, and hell be very good at it. And the Eagles will continue win or lose because of Reid and Roseman and the people they surround themselves with.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org