Joe Banner Is Getting a Bad Rap

by | February 18, 2011 at 4:47 PM | General, NFL, Philadelphia, Sports

Joe Banner gets a ton of guff in Philadelphia. Most of the time, I’m the one giving it to him. He comes off poorly to Eagles fans. He’s not one of us. He boasts about his team’s success too much. He spins stories with the delicacy of a Roto-Rooter plumber.

But his recent tumble into the media maelstrom is unfounded, unfair and inaccurate.

What’s the Eagles president taking heat for this week? In his annual interview with local Philadephia radio mogul Howard Eskin on 610 WIP, Banner, according to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News:

“Tried to assert that the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers, who have appeared in three of the last six Super Bowls and won two of them, really aren’t any more successful than the Eagles on balance, because they haven’t made the playoffs nine of the last 11 years, or been to five conference championship games in the last decade, the way the Eagles have.”

The Les Bowen quote — which notably contains no actual Joe Banner quotes — got picked up by the Big Lead as well as some others in the Philadelphia blogosphere and talk radio and has been used as ammunition for the “Eagles think they’ve been as successful as the Steelers despite never winning anything” argument – an assertion Philly fans are particularly sensitive to considering the team has never won a Super Bowl and hasn’t won a championship since 1960.

There’s one problem with this particular NFL executive witch hunt. What Les Bowen wrote isn’t exactly a fair representation of what Joe Banner said. In fact some might even go as far to say it’s verging on fiction.

Someone needs to come to Joe’s defense. Incredibly, not one media personality has stepped up to take an honest look at what Banner actually said. So Joe’s defense attorney will have to be the same guy that nicknamed him the Dryer two years ago.

I have taken the time to transcribe Banner’s actual quotes from the Howard Eskin interview. If you have time, listen to the entire thing online here.

On why the Eagles haven’t won a Super Bowl:

“We are determined to win a Super Bowl. We’re actually determined to win more than one.”

On how he evaluates 2010:

“I’m just never going to call a season a success if we don’t win a Super Bowl. I just think it’s the wrong message for me to send to the team. I think it’s the wrong message to send to the fans. That’s what our goal is. We’re setting the bar that high. We’re not hiding behind managing expectations.”

And then there’s the quote in question. Let me give you the question and answer for context:

Howard Eskin: You look across the state and you see the Pittsburgh Steelers get to the Super Bowl multiple times. And people say why can’t the Eagles do that? What do [the Steelers] do that the Eagles don’t do?

Banner first talked about the similarities in philosophy: building on lines, resigning own players, focus on draft.

And then he comes to the money quote:

“At the same time I know the Super Bowl is the ultimate measurement. And we’ve been to five championship games in the last 11 years, they haven’t. We’ve been to the playoffs all three of the last years, they haven’t. And at the same time, the ultimate goal is winning the Super Bowl and they’ve been more successful at that particular part than us

“So I don’t look at them and say they’re really smart, they’re really good, and we’re not. But we do look at all the successful teams and what they do. …

“But I don’t have an answer to that question. I think they have been more successful in terms of getting to the Super Bowl. But I think you are looking at two franchises that in competing against the 32 teams have had significant success, and sustained success which is very difficult.”

Read that quote to yourself again. What’s the complaint here? That Banner is defending his tenure at all? What is the guy supposed to do? Say his entire time here has been a failure? Joe acknowledges that winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal … and then specifically says the Steelers have been more successful at that then the Eagles.

It’s right there. In plain English. But maybe that’s not good enough for you. Maybe you feel he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth by saying a season isn’t successful unless you win the Super Bowl and then labeling the Eagles long-run of sustained playoff appearances sustained success. Taken literally, this is a contradiction.

Luckily, a caller picked up on it and let Banner explain.

Caller: How can you say both [the Steelers and Eagles] have had a long sustained success when you said not winning the Super Bowl means an unsuccessful season?

Banner: “You’re right in taking my words literally. I think that making the playoffs nine out of 11 years and appearing in the championship game is a successful run; which is different than saying we’ve achieved all of our goals. And I think the Steelers have obviously had a period of success. It includes, by the way, less playoff appearances, and less championship game appearances and more Super Bowl appearances. And I understand we would trade – as I know the fans would – some of those playoff appearances for some of those Super Bowl appearances. But I think an objective person looking at the two franchises would use the term that both franchises have had extended periods of success, which is different than saying they’ve reached every goal, and feel comfortable with that terminology.“

Again, did anyone bother to listen to this interview before attacking Banner? While he’s proud of the franchise’s ability to remain a contender, he tells the caller flat out that both the Eagles and the fans would trade some of the playoff appearances for Super Bowl appearances.

And if you still weren’t sure how much importance Banner puts on bringing Lombardi to Broad Street, well, Joe kept going:

“I’m greatly disappointed and very worried and stressed over the fact that we haven’t won a championship. I want to come down Broad Street. I want to stand on that podium. I want to hold that trophy up. I want to know what that feels like.” 

Should I just bold that entire quote?

Look Philadelphia, I get not liking Joe Banner. He comes off as smug and elitist in a blue collar town that tolerates pretentiousness like we tolerate frozen soft pretzels. But don’t let your bias against the man cloud you from truth. Don’t believe a mischaracterization when Banner’s actual words are available for all to ingest.

There are a lot of reasons not to like Joe Banner. Claiming that he said the Eagles are as successful as the Steelers is not one of them.

Email me at russakoffrules@comcast.net; follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/leerussakoff.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.