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Thursday, June 7, 2012
Joe Banner to become adviser

By Adam Schefter and Sal Paolantonio
ESPN

After an offseason spent fortifying their roster, the Philadelphia Eagles have reshaped the top of their front office.

Longtime Eagles president Joe Banner is transitioning to a new role as a strategic adviser to team owner Jeffrey Lurie, while former chief operating officer Don Smolenski is being promoted to president. The moves were made official Thursday at a news conference at Philadelphia's NovaCare Complex, where the Eagles train.

As a result, there will be a shift in responsibility for all football operations to coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman -- a move that has been in the works for months, a senior team official said Thursday.

"The new team president will no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations of cap management, player negotiations and acquisitions," a senior team official said. "That will all now be the responsibility of Coach Reid and the general manager's office."

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Banner said he "absolutely did not" lose out on a power struggle with Reid and Roseman. Banner said that he went to Lurie last March and expressed a desire to move onto "the next challenge in my life," telling his boyhood friend that he wanted to begin the transition to leave the team.

Banner, an Eagles employee since 1994, still will be assisting his longtime friend Lurie, but also will continue pursuing greater challenges with other teams that can use the abilities of a man who is widely regarded as one of the NFL's top executives.

"There is no better executive in sports than Joe Banner," Lurie said. "We are making this announcement today because he is looking for a greater challenge, and in Don Smolenski I have a highly regarded, very worthy successor as president of this team.

"Joe and I have achieved a great deal since I acquired the team. From building Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex, to driving the work of the Eagles Youth Partnership and, of course, our successes on the field, Joe has been an integral part of everything we have done."

Banner said he has already begun making calls to find a prospective NFL ownership group that would be interested in buying a franchise or setting up a franchise in another city.

When asked if that could include the possible franchise in Los Angeles, Banner said he would be "open to L.A. I don't want to single them out, but that's something I think I can do -- set up a franchise, help build a stadium, hire a coach, hire good people to build a winning organization."

Wednesday was Banner's last day as team president after 14 years.

"It is bittersweet, because I have had great moments there, but I didn't achieve the ultimate goal, and that was to win a Super Bowl," he said. "It's a tremendous hole in my heart that we didn't win a Super Bowl. I've shed tears over it the last couple of days. When I left the building (Wednesday), it was a tearful moment."

It is bittersweet, because I have had great moments there, but I didn't achieve the ultimate goal, and that was to win a Super Bowl. It's a tremendous hole in my heart that we didn't win a Super Bowl. I've shed tears over it the last couple of days. When I left the building (Wednesday), it was a tearful moment.

-- Joe Banner

Smolenski joined the Eagles in 1998 as the club's vice president and chief financial officer, and later was promoted to senior vice president/chief financial officer. He was promoted again to chief operating officer in April 2010 and worked closely with Banner developing and implementing organizational-wide initiatives.

"Joe has been a great friend, teacher and mentor," Smolenski said. "His support and confidence have been instrumental to my growth and development in the organization. As the Eagles new president, I'm excited to build on the work we've done together over the years.

"I'm honored to accept the leadership of more than 200 terrific Eagles employees, who share our passion for building the strongest organization we can for Eagles fans in Philadelphia and around the country."

Now Smolenski is receiving his most decorated promotion yet, but it is one for which the Eagles had been preparing and expecting.

Banner and Lurie began discussions about seeking other opportunities during last year's lockout, but the timing then was not what it is now. Since then, the Eagles have had even more time to put together an executive succession plan with which they are comfortable.

Lurie and Banner both noted that Roseman's responsibilities with player personnel, contract negotiations and cap management had steadily increased, particularly in the past several months, until their handoff was seamless.

But the most marked change will be the handoff in power to Smolenski from Banner, who has been close friends with Lurie for 44 years.

"It has been my privilege to work with Jeffrey Lurie over all these years," Banner said. "Together we have built a talented front office team that is now ready to assume leadership of this extraordinary franchise. I plan to pursue a major new opportunity within the sports field -- one that will enable me to apply all that I have learned as the Eagles president. I could never thank Jeff enough for the opportunity and support he has afforded me."

Banner also praised the man replacing him. "Don is one of the unknown jewels in the NFL," Banner said, "and so deserving of this chance to help steer this great franchise going forward."