Former Eagles president Joe Banner is doing a weekly Q&A during the season with longtime Inquirer pro football writer Paul Domowitch.
This week’s conversation:
Domo: Many of Carson Wentz’s numbers are down the last four games since DeSean Jackson got hurt. He isn’t throwing interceptions, and he’s been terrific on third down. But he is near the bottom of the league in completion percentage and yards per attempt, he hasn’t thrown for more than 190 yards the last two weeks, and the deep ball has pretty much vanished since DeSean got hurt.
Banner: I’m not completely sold on a cause-and-effect there with DeSean. Let me be clear. DeSean is a very good player who played very well in that first game. So I’m not suggesting that his absence hasn’t had an impact or that his eventual return won’t be significantly positive.
But I think the passing numbers the last couple of games are a little bit misleading. The passing game was good when it needed to be against Green Bay. Carson threw for three touchdowns.
Against the Jets last week, they were up 14-0 pretty quickly. So I think that skews things. I think they’ll be fine until he gets back. Which is why I think they need to be careful bringing him back too soon and getting overanxious. Because the last thing you want to do is risk re-injury.
Domo: One of my main reservations when the Eagles signed DeSean was availability. I just felt that, at his age and with his injury history, he was going to miss games. Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. Given that, do you think signing him was a bad idea?
Banner: The way I look at this, you’re making a risk-reward every time you’re making a decision. Basically, in this case, they were risking a roster spot, a starting position and about $9 million per year in cap. You’ve got to weigh him missing some games vs. the upside of what we’ve seen him do and can do when he’s on the field, which impacts good teams, which is who you play late in the season.
I feel signing him was a good idea. Now, if he continues to miss games and has further injuries, then that equation kind of shifts with the benefit of hindsight.
Domo: The trade deadline is just a couple of weeks away. The Eagles still have concerns on defense at corner, tackle and end. Howie has not been afraid to make deadline deals in the past. Do you expect him to make one this time?
Banner: My best guess is that they will make at least one trade. I think they’re focused on defensive tackle and corner. I also think there’s going to be more activity overall in the league than we’ve seen in years.
It’s only been a couple of years ago since they moved the trade deadline back a few weeks. That started to increase the action a little bit. Now we have teams using the strategy of making short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. So it all sets up really well for more active trading.
The Eagles aren’t afraid of taking a chance or making a mistake. Most of these (deadline) moves have worked out for them. So I’d be very surprised if they don’t make some moves and add some players that can make a difference.
Domo: Jordan Howard is off to a good start. He’ll be a free agent after the season. Given the presence of Miles Sanders, how do you see it playing out with him? Will they re-sign him? Or will they let him walk and bring in a cheaper back?
Banner: Most of these running backs now who aren’t the premier guys are getting $4 million-, $5 million-, $6 million-per-year extensions. I don’t think (re-signing him) will be a high priority for them. I’d certainly be surprised if they did it during the season. But I think if he continues to play the way he’s playing, it’s likely they’ll try to bring him back.
While Sanders is their main guy long-term, they believe in having depth at that spot. So he has value if the price is right. I think their attitude will be, we’d like to bring him back if he continues to perform the way he has. But if he doesn’t, we know where to go to get other players like that.
Domo: The Redskins are a mess. Again. They’re 0-5 and Dan Snyder fired another head coach this week, while keeping the team’s incompetent president, Bruce Allen, in place. Since Snyder bought the franchise 20 years ago, Washington has been to the playoffs just four times and has won one playoff game. Will that franchise ever be successful as long as Snyder owns it?
Banner: It’s very hard to picture how that happens. Though the reality of it is there are a couple of (other) owners that, if most people met and got to talk to them, would be dumbfounded that they’re successful. But they were smart enough to hire a key person here and there and let them have some space to operate.
I generally believe the best predictor of the future is the past. The most important job an owner has is deciding who to hire and setting a tone. We now have close to a 20-year history of somebody who doesn’t seem to have the insights necessary to figure out who the right people to hire are. And it remains true. If that franchise ever is going to be successful, many of the people in the building need to be different names and faces.
I’ll say this. It’s good to have them in the Eagles’ division. I don’t see any light at the end of that tunnel for Redskins fans, because I don’t see any evidence that the owner has the right knowledge and insights and approach to hire the right people.
Domo: Biggest Sunday surprise last week: the Packers’ beating the Cowboys in Dallas or the Colts’ beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead?
Banner: Easily the Colts’ win. They have a very well built roster, with a lot of hard-working, high-character guys. But they had a bunch of injuries. The game was in Kansas City. I was very, very shocked. I kept thinking it was going to flip, and the Chiefs would rattle off a couple of touchdowns and create some space, but it never happened. To me, that might’ve been the biggest surprise outcome of the season so far.
Domo: What did you make of the Cowboys’ loss?
Banner: I think you were looking at two good, but certainly not great, teams, and on that particular day, the Packers outplayed them. I’ve been warm but lukewarm, compared to many, on the Cowboys. I think they’re a good team. But even when they were 3-0 and the Eagles were 1-2, I felt the Eagles were clearly the better team.
Domo: Who’s the best team in the NFC ?
Banner: I still think it’s the Eagles. I think the team to worry about the most is New Orleans. If Minnesota doesn’t go too overboard with being conservative on offense, they have the talent to be in that top group. And I like Green Bay. Then there’s a group of other teams just outside that group.
Domo: You didn’t mention the Rams.
Banner: I think the Rams still are a very good team and are well-coached. But people forget that they lost (defensive tackle Ndamukong) Suh and (safety LaMarcus) Joyner on defense. They lost two of their five starting offensive linemen and have replaced them with guys who aren’t playing very well.
I still think they’re a very good team. But there are at least three or four other teams in the NFC that I’d be more worried about if I were competing in that conference.
Domo: You also didn’t mention the NFC’s only remaining unbeaten team, the 4-0 49ers.
Banner: I don’t put them in that group at the top. I put them in the next group. I have not yet seen (Jimmy) Garoppolo show us that he can stand in the pocket and throw the ball well when he doesn’t have really good protection and there’s some urgency about it. If he can’t do that, as good a team as they’re building and as good a coach as Kyle (Shanahan) is, that’s going to limit them when they start playing really good teams late in the season in the playoffs.
So, good team, on track to become a very good team in the next year or two. But in my mind, at this point, still a little uncertainty as to whether the quarterback can run the passing attack they’re going to need to beat good teams late in the year.