Former Eagles president Joe Banner is doing a weekly Q&A during the season with Paul Domowitch, The Inquirer’s longtime pro football writer.
Here is this week’s conversation:
Domo: You’ve previously mentioned how devastating it can be to lose multiple players at the same position early in the season. Well, here we are, just a quarter of the way into the season and the Eagles are missing five of their top six cornerbacks and two of their top three defensive tackles. If you’re Howie Roseman, what do you do right now? Sit tight and wait for guys to get healthy again? Bring in some street free agents or practice-squad guys? Or trade for more impactful help?
Banner: Howie knows the key piece of information that we don’t have right now. And that’s how soon will these guys be back, and how sure is he that once they’re back their risk of re-injury is no higher than any other player.
If the answer to that is they’re not going to be back for a little while, then obviously you’re going to be much more aggressive in trying to acquire help. Any team in the Eagles’ situation would be on the phone right now and having their scouts focus on evaluating every potential available player. That’s everybody from retired guys to ones not on a roster to ones on practice squads to ones on a team that’s doing badly and may see some benefit to converting an asset that’s not really going to help them a lot this year into a draft pick.
The Eagles are arguably one of the most aggressive teams in the league about this. So rest assured, what’s going on in the building is a discussion of every potential name that could be available short-term or long-term. The ones that they decide could actually make a difference, they then engage in a conversation as to what’s the value of this player.
I suspect what the Eagles want to do is try to find some solutions that aren’t overly expensive in terms of long-term costs. They may have a short-term cost, but they’re not overly consequential in terms of long-term cost. Somebody like maybe, the Broncos’ Chris Harris. If Denver loses another game or two, [general manager John] Elway may be willing to deal him. He’s disgruntled, they’re losing, and he’s going to be a free agent at the end of the season.
Domo: After Sunday’s game against the Jets, the Eagles have to play three straight games on the road. It’s the second time in three years that the NFL schedule-maker has done this to them. Two years ago, they had to play the Seahawks, Rams and Giants on the road in consecutive weeks late in the season. What’s going on? And are the Phillies a factor in this?
Banner: Every year, each team gets to submit to the league some requests about their schedule. One of the things you submit with that is available dates of your building. When I was with the Eagles, we always had to include the latter part of the Phillies schedule when games would overlap, even though we didn’t play in the same building. The league also communicated with Major League Baseball and had the exact dates and times for playoff games, which were also considered dates they couldn’t schedule you. So, yes, the Phillies were a factor.
The truth is the league is very aware of the competitive disadvantage [playing three straight road games] creates and tries hard to avoid this. But every year, there usually are a couple of teams this happens to. Frankly, when it happened to us [in 2006], we called the league and made sure they knew we weren’t happy. We made sure they knew we noticed. And we made sure that they knew that our expectation was that this wasn’t going to happen again for a number of years. That’s why it’s very surprising to me that it’s happened in two of the last three years. That’s very unusual and at least leaves them safe that it won’t happen again for a while. Or so you would think.
Domo: The league and the players union began negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement this summer. Amazingly, the talks were fairly amicable. No chairs were thrown. Roger Goodell and De Smith didn’t exchange punches. It seems like these talks could go a lot smoother than the last ones in 2011. Agree?
Banner: So far, it’s been much easier than the last negotiations. But my experience from having been in the negotiations the last time and having spoken to some people involved this time, the hardest issues are left to the end. They kind of are discussed, and they’re framed. But issues like who’s going to get what percentage of the revenues, those things usually don’t come to the foreground until the end. And it’s really difficult to predict, even if things are going very well, that they’ll go well through the end, or when you get to those really difficult and frankly, most important issues, they’ll stay smooth.
But it’s encouraging that, so far, the conversations have been very constructive and have been kept mostly private, which is always a good sign that both sides are trying to get a deal done. The sense is the union has made some incremental requests as opposed to trying to hit it out of the park. I put a little “if’’ on that because I’m not hearing it from people actually in the room. I’m hearing it from people that are getting updated by people in the room. But if that’s true, that’s obviously encouraging.
And remember, they both said that if they didn’t get a deal done by the start of the season, they’d continue to talk after the season. Yet they’re continuing to talk. So all of those things are encouraging that we may have a chance of getting something done here, certainly during the season, and maybe even relatively soon.
But people shouldn’t forget that just because things are going well so far, they haven’t deeply gone into the issues that are the hardest to resolve at the end.
Domo: Do you think an 18-game regular season will be part of a new CBA?
Banner: I do not think it will include 18 games. I do think it will include some schedule changes. The most likely to me is the addition of two more playoff games, which will be worth a sizable amount of money to both the players and the owners.
I think that will happen for sure. But my best guess is they won’t expand to 18 games.
Domo: How about the preseason? Will they reduce the number of preseason games?
Banner: I think there will definitely be adjustments to the preseason that will come out as part of the CBA, but that would’ve happened whether there was a new CBA or not. There’s total consensus, from owners, from players, from coaches, that what’s happening now isn’t working.
Now, there’s some difference of opinion as to what’s the best solution. But I don’t think there’s any chance that we won’t see significant changes to the preseason that will include a reduction in the number of preseason games, probably down to two.
Domo: Right now, there seem to be more bad teams than ever in the league. Four weeks into the season, six teams still haven’t won a game. Is this a bad thing for the league?
Banner: I think there’s an increase in the really bad teams and organizations. I think it’s cyclical, so I don’t think there’s some structural problem. But I do think there’s an increase of games where it’s a “gimme’’ as opposed to the old on-any-given-Sunday deal.
I don’t think we have any on-any-given-Sundays right now. There’s a group of teams that aren’t going to win on hardly any Sundays, and a couple that may literally win on no Sundays.
Like I said, I think it’s cyclical. So I don’t think it’s anything anybody should run up and start proposing changes to correct. But it’s definitely not good for the league and it’s definitely, in my mind, real.
Domo: Your former coach, Andy Reid, moved into seventh place on the all-time coaching wins list with 199 regular-season victories. He needs just 27 more to move into fifth ahead of Curly Lambeau, who has a stadium named after him. Any doubt in your mind that Big Red is a lock to make the Hall of Fame? Or does he have to win a Super Bowl?
Banner: For me, if I’m voting, he’s a Hall of Fame coach now. You’ve been in the [selection] room to hear the discussions. I’m sure there are some voters that feel you have to win a Super Bowl to get into Canton. But by the time he’s done with his career, and given the number of years he’s going to be with [Patrick] Mahomes, I think the Super Bowl question will be irrelevant. I think he’ll have certainly at least one, and probably more than one, Super Bowl ring to help his case.
Domo: Andy Reid’s been coaching non-stop for two decades. But he’s still a pup. He’s only 61. Do you expect him to keep coaching for a while?