“Actions speak louder than words.”
Joe Banner, the Browns’ new chief executive officer, said those words in regard to focusing on building a championship-level team in Cleveland after he agreed to join new owner Jimmy Haslam in the team’s front office.
“We have one priority that overrides everything by a massive amount,” Banner said. “The focus is going to be on the football team. That’s what’s going to drive this organization, winning games, winning championships and frankly, we’ve got to prove it. All the claims and all the talk really doesn’t mean anything. We have to go do the work and then, they have to see the results. It’s measureable.
“Our goal is to win a Super Bowl. I think we shoot to build the best team in the NFL. If you’re doing that, it will follow that you’ll win your division. I don’t underestimate the other teams in the division. They’re all run by good, smart people. They’ve all got young quarterbacks. They’ve got smart general managers and player personnel people, so we’ll have to build a very good team to be strong in this division.”
Banner came to Cleveland after spending 19 years with the Philadelphia Eagles. Banner started by managing the day-to-day operations of the team on May 6, 1994. He was promoted to president on Aug. 1, 2001 and spent 12 years in that capacity.
During his tenure in Philadelphia, the Eagles went 162-124-2, made 11 trips to the postseason, won six NFC East Division championships and were in five NFC Championship Games. They also appeared in one Super Bowl.
Under Banner’s watch, the Eagles moved into a new game day home, as well as a state-of-the-art practice facility. After playing at Veterans Stadium, the Eagles moved to Lincoln Financial Field and have played in front of sellout crowds since the new stadium was built.
“It was really more of a broad-based challenge,” Banner said of joining the Eagles. “I really enjoyed my first years in Philadelphia the most and it may not be so healthy, but that’s just the way I’m wired. A big challenge with almost more to do than you have time to do, putting together an organization and driving a vision, those are the things that I feel like I do well, that I’m most excited to do. Replicating that situation for myself was really what drove me here.”
Before Banner’s arrival, the Eagles went through a postseason drought from 1982 through 1987 and had not advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs since they played in the Super Bowl following the 1980 season.
“It was a great franchise in that it was playing in a great division, had great rivals, had amongst the most passionate fans in the league, hadn’t performed up to the hopes of the ownership or the fans on the field at that point, was in facilities that weren’t up to standards if you’re going to run a first-class NFL team,” Banner said. “They really had the full range of challenges, but it had the basics in place that you want in an NFL team to get where we were able to eventually get. A lot of that is around the marketplace and the passion that the people there had for the team and frankly, just a love of football. In Philadelphia, they love football. In Ohio and Cleveland, they just love the game.”
Banner described himself as “competitive to a fault.” The competitiveness was honed during his childhood in Brookline, Mass., as well as through his educational and athletic pursuits at Rivers School and later, Denison University in Granville, Ohio. He said that his experiences on the fields of play and in Philadelphia have given him a vision of what it takes to be successful in the NFL. Part of the challenge is building an organization with people that work hard and are committed to the vision.
“It’s a team effort,” Banner said. “We spoke to the organization earlier today and talked about everybody pulling their weight and then, nobody has too much to pull so everybody can kind of make it work. I think you’ve got everybody pulling in the same direction toward a common goal. You’ve got all good people that are very dedicated and my impression is there’s a lot of great people that are very passionate and do great jobs. You just get a clear vision that everybody’s pulling in the right direction and it’s not hard to move forward.”