May 20, 2009

Why I'm Rooting for Michael Vick

I was never a big Michael Vick guy even before all his troubles. Even with all the hype surrounding him and all the hyperbole early in his career (I believe Joe Theismann said he would revolutionize the sport or something like that), I never liked him, never had him on a fantasy football team, never thought much of him as a quarterback, and even occasionally just plain disliked him. Vick was the ultimate "ESPN The Magazine" star. A household name who get tons of hype and attention but never did anything to warrant it. The media constantly shoved this guy down our throat like he was a superstar, but what did his teams ever do? When he struggled, the media seemed to make more excuses for him than any other player in the league. It was never Mike Vick's fault. It was always "bad receivers" or "dropped balls" or some other nonsense.

Meanwhile, if you actually watched the guy play, you saw an athlete trying to play quarterback. Vick would go back to pass and immediately look to run. He made poor decisions, he left receivers out to dry with bad throws, and failed to hit them in stride. He was also immature and didn't seem dedicated to the game even though he had signed a $130 million contract. Mike Vick was everything that you didn't want in an NFL quarterback, and yet no one had the guts to call him out on it. As the losses piled up and it became more and more obvious that Mike Vick was the problem and not his teammates, he started to develop a real surly demeanor and started acting recklessly off the field. The marijuana incident at the airport, flipping off the fans, throwing teammates under the bus left and right. It was everything you wouldn't want in a leader. Not only was Mike Vick not an elite quarterback, it was becoming obvious that he wasn't even an adequate quarterback. Why was there still so much attention being paid to a mediocre/bad NFL quarterback??

So I will say that I had some level of satisfaction to see Atlanta thrive last year under Matt Ryan. The same guys who weren't giving Vick any help suddenly were playing great with a quarterback who made good decisions and put the football in the right place at the right time. The great myth of Michael Vick had been debunked, and he had become a first ballot Ewing Theory Hall of Famer.

But as Mike Vick's legal troubles started to unfold in 2007, I didn't really like what I was seeing. I felt sympathy for him. Everyone in the media was so determined to burn him at the stake, and yet I found myself pulling in the opposite direction. Legal analysts started throwing out numbers for prison time and started talking about YEARS. Maybe it's the contrarian in me, but I became uncomfortable with the witch hunt.

I started to think that PETA was using him as a posterchild for dog fighting, and that this judge was using the case to make a statement. I actually started to think of Michael Vick as somewhat of a victim. He was a celebrity, and the government was determined to let everyone know that Michael Vick, the football star, was not going to get off lightly.

I am not going to sit here and condone dog fighting since I know it can be brutal, but we're talking about DOGS!!! Dogfighting is a low level felony. In many parts of the south, it's a cultural thing that has been going on for decades. The guy was loosely involved with the killing of some dogs on his property. Was he there?? Yes. Did he probably place some bets?? Probably. But was he the mastermind of this operation?? No way. Come on. The guy is an NFL football player making millions of dollars with tons of commitments to his time. He's not up there in Virginia training those dogs seven days a week. These prosecutors pinned this whole thing on Vick when the reality is that he probably had very little to do with it. Did Vick make the mistake of entrusting his friends with his property up in Virginia?? Absolutely. But did he commit some heinous act that demanded that he be put away from society?? No, not at all.

When it became more and more likely that Vick was going to plea out to these charges, I was shocked at the number of months that were being discussed. Twenty three months?? Are you kidding me?? 23 months in a federal prison for a guy with NO CRIMINAL RECORD who happened to own the property where some dogs got killed?? That's what we're spending our taxpayer dollars on?? DOGFIGHTING?? That's insane!! Two years of his life down the drain when you VERY EASILY could have given him strict probation with some very stringent terms (no dog ownership, huge fines, mandatory counseling, etc). And people wonder where our tax dollars go. At the risk of sounding like some bleeding heart liberal (which I am most certainly not), the whole thing was a grave injustice to him as a person.

And now that he's about to get out of prison, I'm GENUINELY rooting for him. I find him to be a much more compelling story now than he ever was as a player. What was prison like for him?? How has he changed as a man?? Has he matured?? If he ever gives a sit down with some ESPN anchor, I will be watching that without question. Five years ago when you couldn't go five minutes without hearing a Mike Vick story on Sportscenter, I couldn't care less about him. Now I'm intrigued and pulling for him.

I'm also furious that there are people saying he shouldn't be allowed back in the NFL or that he should be required to give his whole salary to the Humane Society and all this other stuff.

What a bunch of nonsense. The man has paid his debt to society. He has done everything asked of him, he is going to work with the Humane Society in his free time, and I'd be willing to bet that he will never commit a crime again for the rest of his life. You don't spend two years in prison away from your friends and family and your career without coming out a changed man. If Tony Dungy is willing to vouch for you, that's good enough for me. To take away the man's livelihood because of some politically correct nonsense or some pressure from PETA would be a pathetic move by the NFL.

The NFL has employed far worse people than Michael Vick. Leonard Little KILLED A PERSON (read that again) in a drunk driving incident and then picked up another DUI six years later. He's still in the NFL. Ray Lewis may or may not have had someone killed in Miami, and he's still in the NFL. Chris Henry and Pacman Jones are two of the biggest degenerates in the league with a litany of arrests and bad behavior, and both of those guys are still in the NFL. And yet people are saying that Michael Vick shouldn't be reinstated because of some dogfighting from two years ago??

If Roger Goodell holds up Michael Vick's comeback, then he is a coward. The right thing to do is to reinstate him. He has been out of the league for two years. That is more than enough punishment for Vick. I'm so tired of Roger Goodell's phony tough guy act. Get off your high horse.

As for his career, I will be interested to see what he looks like when he does get reinstated. Will he take his career more seriously and put in the film work and the practice work to become a better pocket passer?? What kind of guy is he going to be?? Is he going to take his work with the Humane Society seriously and work in the community or is he going to blow that off and go back to his old ways?? Is he coming back just for the money to pay back creditors or is he more serious about the game than that?

As for his playing career, I think someone will give him a shot to be their starter, but I also think he could be the most dangerous backup QB/slash player in the league. Wouldn't he at least be an intriguing option for a Wildcat attack even if he never made it back as a fulltime QB?? Vick would be the kinda guy that I'd want as my backup quarterback since he could not only be your backup QB but also could get some meaningful snaps during the game in a different role. The backup and 3rd string QBs are practically a waste of a roster spot when your starter is healthy, so it would be nice to have a guy like Vick who could come in and do some Wildcat stuff and maybe even play a little receiver or running back. You could actually play Vick in the game alongside your regular starter.

Seems like an NFL team would have nothing to lose by bringing in Vick. I could definitely see him in Jacksonville with a chance to compete for the starting job, but I also could see him in a place like Houston or Carolina as a backup. Heck, I would be THRILLED if the Bengals signed Mike Vick as a backup. Our current backup is JT O'Sullivan. In other words, if Carson goes down, the Bengals are going 2-14. If you had Mike Vick, he can at least win you some games with his legs alone. And if Carson stays healthy, Vick adds the Wildcat element.

Can't imagine the ESPN hype if/when Michael Vick steps on the field again. If that happens, I'll be rooting for him.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Donte Stallworth just killed a guy while driving drunk, and yet there was barely a whisper made out of the whole situation. You listed other examples of players that have done much worse. And yet it seems like a lot of people would probably like to see Vick in jail for the rest of his career. What??!!

Look, what either he or his associates did was wrong, inhumane, disgusting and every other adjective you can think of. But would I have a problem if the Eagles brought him in to back up McNabb? Nope. As long as he can still play. The man has served his time and at least on the surface seems to have changed his life. Like Doug said, if Tony Dungy gives him his endorsement, that is good with me.

And if I have to see or read about one more person from PETA saying something ridiculous about the situation...