Cleveland Sports Links: 10/18


But Banner, who never won a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles, wasn’t the one doing the heavy lifting for the sustained success on the football field that included 11 playoff berths and six division titles.

He certainly had an important role in the Eagles’ football operations, locking up key players to long-term contracts and stretching those cap dollars.

Banner, however, didn’t evaluate whether the quarterback’s release after a five-step drop was up to snuff or if the cornerback prospect fits better in a Cover 2 scheme or how well the linebacker sheds a block while pursuing from the back side.

Those are the calls for football people. Banner, who climbed the ranks in an organization owned by childhood friend Jeffrey Lurie, must remember that.


oe Banner didn’t want to make any promises or predictions. It’s not his nature.

But just as he helped transform the Philadelphia Eagles into consistent winners, the new CEO of the Cleveland Browns has a plan to fix a franchise trapped inside a vortex of failure.

He just hopes it doesn’t take five years.

“I’ll be in a straitjacket if it takes that long,” Banner joked.

On the same day GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan rerouted his campaign trail through Cleveland’s practice, the Browns ushered in a new administration as Banner was introduced by new owner Jimmy Haslam III, whose $1 billion purchase of the franchise was approved at the NFL’s fall meetings on Tuesday.

Banner spent 19 years with the Eagles, spending the final 12 seasons as team president. During his time in Philadelphia, the Eagles went to the playoffs 11 times, won six NFC East titles, advanced to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl. The 59-year-old knows that other than losing, the only constant in Cleveland over the past decade has been change.

“I don’t want to be the next person to make a bunch of promises,” he said. “I want to go out, do the work and let them see the result.”


People tend to forget that this team had started a bit of a transition. Gone were Albert Belle (left as a free agent after the ’96 season), Carlos Baerga (traded to the Mets during in ’96 for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino), Eddie Murray (the slow down had begun and he was traded to Baltimore in July of ’96), top set up man Julian Tavarez (sent to SF after the ’96 season), and Dennis Martinez (left as a free agent after ’96).

On top of it a few days before the ’97 season would begin, GM John Hart rolled the dice and dealt free-agent-to-be Kenny Lofton and left-handed reliever Alan Embree to the Atlanta Braves for Marquis Grissom and David Justice. Hart had already replaced Kent and Vizcaino (sent to SF with Tavarez) with veteran gold glove third baseman Matt Williams and moved Jim Thome across the diamond to first. Closer Jose Mesa missed the early part of the season dealing with a messy off the field legal issue and the newly added Mike Jackson took over the closer role temporarily before settling into the eighth inning role.


“I thought from the start, when they made the trade and some of the other acquisitions, that they were going to be pretty good,” he said. “Their thoughts coming into this season were probably to get into that home-court advantage [for the playoffs], which means you’ve got to be in the top four. Their aspirations are high. There’s no doubt about that. If Andrew’s healthy, they’re going to be tough.”

Gibson agreed.

“They’re going to be extremely tough,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of guys who are very versatile, a lot of guys who can do a lot of things on the floor. They’re really deep and talented.”

But Gibson noted that Bynum’s return will alter things for the Sixers, who had 27 fast-break points on Wednesday, compared to 20 for the Cavs.

“He changes things, because he takes away the up-and-down factor that makes them so tough,” the veteran guard said. “We’ll see. They’ll be pretty good, tough.”