Former Eagles president Joe Banner is doing a weekly Q&A with Inquirer Eagles reporter EJ Smith. This week, they discuss the Eagles’ ugly loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, the concerns with the coaching staff, Howie Roseman’s job security, and Fletcher Cox’s public criticism of the Eagles’ defensive scheme.
EJ: There have been a handful of disappointing developments to come from the season so far. What do you think is the biggest one, relative to your expectations going into the year?
JB: I hate to be this pointed, and I think it’s premature to give a final grade, but I think if we had to grade the coaches so far, emphasis on so far, I think we were a little more hopeful based on the hiring than what we’ve seen to this point.
I’m not making any final conclusions, I’m not saying hiring them was a mistake, I’m just saying relative to expectations, I did think we’d see more aggressiveness and more creativity from this staff. Since we don’t really know why that is, it’s tough. It could be simply that they’re implementing it over a long period of time, which is fine. It could be, offensively they don’t really trust the quarterback, even though they’re never going to tell us that. There are a lot of potential theories that don’t damn the coaches.
But if I’m just looking at the team, I probably would have hoped that we were already starting to see more that made us confident that they had the right crew in place then we’re seeing so far.
EJ: If the offense continues to struggle, is there a point where putting Gardner Minshew in order to evaluate Nick Sirianni’s offense without Jalen Hurts would make sense?
JB: The talk about playing Minshew, to me, is at best premature. If you reach the point where you’re 100% sure that Hurts isn’t the guy and you don’t feel like you’ve seen enough tape on Minshew and you want to learn a little more, I guess you could do it, but they shouldn’t be in either of those places. They’ve seen enough of Minshew where it’s highly unlikely that he’s the long-term answer at quarterback. I think that Hurts deserves more time to see what he can do, and give him more things to do and let him either rise to the occasion or demonstrate that, at least in this point in time, he’s not able to go to that next level.
I don’t know if it’s media speculation that just kind of got started and took on some momentum or if it’s something they’re actually thinking about. To me, I’d be very surprised if it’s actually something they’re thinking about or did.
You can be growing a strong opinion on whether Hurts is the wrong guy or the right guy, but there’s no way you wouldn’t benefit from having more information before he make that decision. So I don’t see any logic in pulling him. We’ve seen a lot of Minshew, we kind of know who he is. He can start for you and he can win some games, but if you’re an organization that knows how important it is to get a difference-making quarterback, then I don’t think making a change like that makes any sense at this point.
EJ: Where does the state of the roster rank on the list of possible disappointments for you? Howie Roseman has been criticized this week as it becomes apparent the lack of talent the team has at various spots.
JB: I gave you my No. 1 thing, this is probably 1A. Getting it done is really hard, but knowing what you need to do in order to have success running a football team is not hard. You need to have an outstanding head coach and a person that’s consistently making good personnel decisions. If you’re doing those things, you’re a good team. Getting to great is a little bit harder, but you’re a good team. If you’re not doing those things, you’re not a good team. If you’re not a good team, which is evident by their record the last season-and-a-half, you have to scrutinize those things and you have to be objective about it.
They have some young guys that are showing development and some young guys that aren’t coming around as quickly as you’d hope like [Jalen] Reagor. We were worried about him in his rookie year, we were hoping he’d come back in Year 2 and emerge. At least in my opinion, we haven’t seen that. He’s playing better, but we haven’t seen a guy who looks like he should have been a first-round draft pick. I think we’re seeing enough to be confident, as long as he stays healthy, that DeVonta Smith is going to be a very, very good player. But they put a lot of investment in the wide receivers and I don’t think there’s anyone outside of him that you’re sure of.
I think it’s very hard to win without being strong at the lines of scrimmage and they took the risk of going into the season with some older and unproven offensive linemen. That’s a risky way of going into the season, to me. Defensively, it’s the same thing. They got an injury or two, [Javon] Hargrave has played really well, I think [Josh] Sweat has played pretty well, but the defensive line has been a disappointment.
If they want to get this back on track, they need to do a better job of developing the guys they draft.
EJ: You’ve given fans a reality check in the past about Roseman’s job security despite public perception. I saw someone ask you about it on Twitter this week. Has your opinion of his job security changed at all?
JB: I’ve been asked recently if I think it’s likely that there’s a change at Howie’s position at the end of the season. If you ask me that today, I don’t think that’s likely to happen. I think Jeff [Lurie] has a lot of faith in Howie. The debate about whether that’s legitimate or deserved, I understand and see both sides of it, but he has faith in him. They have a trusting, very highly respectful relationship and it isn’t like they haven’t had success.
The faith one would have that they could replicate it, since they’ve already proven they can do it, isn’t crazy, either. Even if you feel like there have been too many mistakes recently. I continue to believe that Howie has some security in the immediate future. I think he’d tell you himself that his performance, some things he’s really proud of and others that, if he had to do over again, he’d do differently. Frankly, that’s no different than most GMs.
I think they believed the team would be better this year than it is. I don’t think they thought it would be some great season, but I think they thought it would be better. Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that they kept players like Zach Ertz at the beginning of the season tells you that. Hopefully they’re in a different place now and they realize that the climb up the mountain may be a little bit steeper and longer than they’ve been thinking.
EJ: Obviously they let Doug Pederson go last year, but how hard is it to move on from a head coach or general manager who has won a Super Bowl for you? That’s the big question with most people in those roles, whether you can actually do it. After seeing them answer that question, how much time does that buy you?
JB: It’s harder because they’ve earned it to be harder. If you’re looking at somebody’s performance over a number of years, they’ve had a number of years that certainly went very well.
You’re balancing the years that went really well with the years that didn’t. And you’re balancing all the extra information you have from sitting in all those meetings and seeing who was for what in the draft room. We don’t know who favored what picks. I understand why fans who are looking at what’s going on say, “We need to make a change.” Anybody looking at the organization from the outside would say that it has to be a serious consideration, but we’re never going to know enough information.
It’s the fun thing about sports, we can have an opinion. We can debate it. We can even be really confident in our opinion, but the truth is we only know a very small percentage of the information that we should really know to actually make that decision.
So, to answer your question, it’s hard to win a Super Bowl. If you’ve proven you can actually put together a team that does it, you don’t have tenure, but you do have some rope to prove you can do it again.
EJ: How rare is it for a player like Fletcher Cox to, on multiple occasions, publicly criticize a coach’s scheme?
JB: It’s very rare and extremely undesirable to have one of your established leaders, a quality player who has been with the franchise a long time, feeling that he has to go public with something like that. First of all, you don’t even want him to believe it. You want him believing you’ve just hired a great coach, to be excited and just believe you need more time to come together.
If he happens to be thinking the thoughts that he expressed, you hope that he’s keeping them to himself or only to the people in the building who can do something about it. You and me knowing about that does the Eagles and Fletcher Cox no good at all. Unless his goal was to make an excuse, which is really not a good idea, then telling the world does absolutely no good. Sitting down and having a conversation with your defensive line coach, or your defensive coordinator, or even maybe your head coach, then you at least have a chance to have a constructive outcome.
So what surprises me is, so early in the regime, with a guy that you know has a history of being so good for the team and loyal to the team and playing at the level that he’s played, saying things like that publicly — you’d be hard-pressed to not think that maybe the tip of an iceberg of some deeper problems could be there.
EJ: A lot of fans were upset by Sirianni comparing the team to a growing flower earlier this week. In your experience, does messaging like that have nearly the effect people imagine on the players?
JB: No. These players are with the coach all day long. They know who he is. They may like him, they may not. They may be optimistic about the future, they may not, but those are side shows.
Players are making judgments... it’s just like you. You go to work with people, you get to know them, you make judgments about them. It’s not based on some anecdote or some moment or anything like that. It’s based on your collective experiences with a person. That’s the way player-coach relationships are developed.