Former Eagles president Joe Banner is doing a weekly Q&A with The Inquirer’s longtime pro football writer, Paul Domowitch, during the season.
Here is this week’s conversation:
Domo: The Eagles released linebacker Zach Brown earlier this week after he made disparaging comments about Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who then went out and threw four touchdown passes against the Eagles in an 18-point win. Do you think they cut him because of his big mouth, or his lousy play in an embarrassing loss?
Banner: This is one of those situations where two things can be true. I am sure they were not happy with what he said last week. That kind of thing just is not their personality. It’s just not their culture. It can’t be helpful. It’s just unnecessary.
At the same time, I’d be shocked if they cut him solely for that reason. I suspect what you saw on film and what many others saw on film, and not just in one game, was really the root of that. I suspect that his comments on Cousins nudged them over the line.
Domo: The Eagles might get Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby back this week, and another cornerback, Cre’Von LeBlanc, is eligible to come off IR after the Buffalo game. Does that alleviate the need to trade for a corner, or would you still try to add one before the deadline?
Banner: I think they still need help. Keep in mind, I think upgrading the defensive line and/or upgrading the corner position gets you to the same place. So I don’t think they absolutely have to get a corner to solve the problem, although that’s obviously the most direct way to address it.
I continue to believe we’ll see them attempt to, and in all probability be successful, in making some additions, including a pass-rusher.
Even when they had a healthy Mills and Darby previously, without a really good pass rush, they have struggled in coverage. The secondary just isn’t going to hold up if they’re not pressuring the quarterback.
Domo: Howie Roseman and Eagles VP of player personnel Andy Weidl have had some conversations with Joe Douglas about Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Would he help?
Banner: I think he’s the type of player that they’re likely looking at. He’s a guy that could help them. But he hasn’t played nearly as well this season as he has previously. So they have to gauge whether a change of scenery might benefit him.
Williams can become a free agent after the season. Even if the Eagles viewed him as a half-season rental, there’s a reasonable chance that they’d be able to get back at least a portion of whatever they traded for him in a comp pick.
Domo: Joe worked for Howie. They’re friends. How helpful is that as far as getting a deal done?
Banner: Knowledge is a two-way street. You have an interesting dynamic of Joe trying to establish his own kind of independence and path. Does the fact that they know each other and that Joe knows how Howie thinks affect the conversation? I don’t know.
Domo: The Eagles are playing the Cowboys on Sunday night. Jason Garrett’s in his ninth season as the Cowboys’ head coach. His team has made the playoffs just three times and has never made it out of the divisional round of the playoffs under him. Surprised that Jerry Jones still keeps him around?
Banner: The good news about working in this league is that you’re not judged subjectively. You either win or you lose. That’s the judgment. Making the playoffs three times in nine years with the benefits of what the Cowboys have to offer and their ability to attract free agents and the money they’re willing to spend, that’s not very good.
I’m not surprised, though, because Jerry has a history of keeping coaches, or at least hiring coaches, that he’s comfortable with. But it’s basically taking the approach that coaches are moderately important, where, in my mind, coaching is extremely important. And they’ve left themselves at a bit of a disadvantage vs. the top teams in the league, including the Eagles, that they claim to be competing with.
Domo: Garrett is on a lot of those “coaches on the hot seat’’ lists. But given that he’s survived this long, it’s hard to see Jerry getting rid of him unless they just have a complete collapse. Agree?
Banner: There’s no history that says mediocrity is going to get a coach fired in Dallas. If things completely fall apart this season, maybe it’s a different story. But if they hang in there and at least compete to win the division, history would say Jerry is likely to continue with him.
Domo: Let’s talk officiating. In my opinion, it’s been absolutely horrible this season. Agree?
Banner: I’m in the worse-than-ever camp. And I’m also a guy that has a history of being annoyed with people who spend too much time worrying about the officiating. For me to get to this point, it really must be conspicuous.
People are like, it’s because there are too many replays and this and that. No. The officials are just missing too many calls. Now, what’s that about? Is it in the training? Is it in this point-of-emphasis nonsense?
I mean, just go out and call the [darn] game and forget about all this other stuff. We’re not really in a position to know, but the bottom line is the quantity of missed calls and the quantity of calls that are deciding games, this is where degree matters.
If they were missing a few calls on both teams, OK, that’s one thing. Let’s go play football. But when you start seeing this many [bad] calls, this many that appear to be missed and are actually directly and irrefutably affecting the outcomes of games week after week, that’s a real problem. The players and the coaches are not deciding too many games right now. And that’s who should be deciding the games.
They’ve got to go back to the basics of what’s the structure in the league office? Who’s reporting to whom? Who’s managing people? Who’s [NFL senior VP of officiating] Al Riveron’s boss? How did Al Riveron get this job? How are we hiring officials? Are we giving them too much feedback to the point that they’re overthinking things?
I was never in favor of adding this pass-interference review. I’m a big believer in the importance of review, but I just think you’ve got to be reasonable in what’s realistically reviewable.
I think this is a very serious problem, and it’s been kind of pushed off as no big deal and refs have always missed calls. But they’ve missed too many calls for too long. In my mind, this is a situation that, over the last half-dozen years or so, has really deteriorated.