It was so much simpler when Joe Banner was around.
He was the cartoon villain with the black cape and the twitchy mustache. If the Eagles did something coldhearted or tone-deaf or just plain arrogant, Banner got the blame. Fans, media, radio talk-show hosts had their bad guy.
So now what, now that Banner and his black hat are in Cleveland?
It was Howie Roseman who stuck a second shiv into the back of defensive tackle Mike Patterson on Wednesday. It was Roseman, the general manager touted as a kinder and gentler contract negotiator, who slashed Patterson's pay in August and then deprived him of more money by putting him on the non-football illness reserve list.
Patterson's crimes against the Philadelphia Eagles franchise? He was slow to recover from brain surgery - repeat: brain surgery - during training camp and then had the unmitigated gall to come down with viral pneumonia last week.
The first pay cut was one in a series of such moves. During the offseason, Roseman cut the pay of defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and defensive end Darryl Tapp. With Patterson, they happen to be three of the truly good guys in the Eagles' defensive line meetings.
Jason Babin, the me-me-me guy? No pay cut until coach Andy Reid had enough and cut him.
Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, key players in the worst pass defense many of us will ever see? No pay cuts.
Brandon Graham, the guy drafted ahead of Jason Pierre-Paul? No pay cut.
Cutting their pay would have reflected badly on the GM - Roseman. If you think players don't take this kind of stuff personally, you don't know much about human nature. The NFL is a business, and everyone understands that it isn't always fair. But when you reward bad teammates at the expense of good ones, you get the kind of chemistry we've seen weekly from these Eagles.
Jenkins signed as a free agent two offseasons ago. He accepted the Eagles' offer over other possible contracts. To slash his salary in the second year is to announce to all future free agents that your word is absolutely worthless.
Is that kind of long-term consequence worth saving a few bucks? Evidently it is to the Eagles.
Patterson collapsed in the middle of a training-camp practice in 2011. The diagnosis was an arteriovenous malformation in his brain. The condition can be fatal, but Patterson postponed surgery until the offseason so he could play last year.
His reward so far has been nothing short of abusive. This bit of nastiness will save the Eagles all of $150,000. It was not worth it.
But there has been more than cold-blooded dealings with players.
With the team on an epic losing streak and fans demanding answers, the Eagles leaped into action. They fired a pair of high-level executives. During Thanksgiving week.
Then there was the game at Lincoln Financial Field in which the Eagles jacked up the volume of their public-address system and cracked down on negative signs. The team admitted the volume was up but denied it was an effort to drown out booing fans. As for the signs, the fans holding them told radio stations the next day that they were threatened with arrest and losing their season tickets.
It was a lot of fuss about very little, ultimately. The point is, the fuss was a direct result of the kind of clueless, tone-deaf behavior the team had engaged in for years. And for years, the blame for that behavior was heaped upon Joe Banner.
He was seen as the paranoid, Phillies-hating, fan-ignoring villain in every situation. And that's not hard to understand. He was the team president for many of those years. He certainly made some mistakes, and no doubt he was behind some unpopular policies and decisions.
But the idea that Banner was some kind of loose cannon on Jeffrey Lurie's Good Ship Lollipop? That was a myth. We know that now.
Joe is long gone, and the Eagles still are having a Banner year.