Michael Vick came to the NFL in 2001 with talent that was just sick. He could throw the ball a country mile. He was as fast as any player in the league. The Atlanta Falcons had to have him, so they traded up and selected the Virginia Tech star with the first pick in the draft.
We all saw how it worked it. Vick was productive, but never quite developed into the quarterback most thought he could. There were always questions about whether or not he could win you a game with his arm. No one doubted his athletic ability and no one ever said he couldn’t win you a game with his legs. It was his arm and ability to develop into a ‘quarterback’ that people questioned.
Then came the dogfighting allegations, the guilty plea, and jail time. The Falcons were so disgusted with his conduct they ruled him out from being a contributing member of the team once he came out of jail. Arthur Blank, the team owner, scolded him publicly. The Falcons wanted nothing to do with him.
Now, word around the NFL is that the Falcons are shopping Vick’s rights, figuring some team will pay a decent price for someone with his talent. And over the weekend, San Fracisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary refused to rule out going after Vick.
“I’m not going to say I’m open or closed,” Singletary said. “I’d say it has to be something [general manager] Scot [McCloughan] and I talk about and feel good about one way or the other. But we have not talked about it at this point in great detail. We’re trying to focus on what we have.”
Read between the lines here. What Singletary really said was that the 49ers wouldn’t mind having Vick on the roster, especially if what the Falcons were looking for in terms of compensation was something they felt was reasonable. Considering what the 49ers currently have at the quarterback spot (Alex Smith and Shaun Hill) it isn’t surprising that they are looking, and looking hard, at Vick.
What the 49ers are doing is in direct contrast to what some teams around the league have already done. Some teams have already come out and said they had no interest in bringing Vick into the fold. But, the Niners, quarterback hungry as they are, won’t rule it out.
And the Falcons, who at one time treated Vick as if he had the plague, are more than happy to ship him somewhere else, as long as they get something in return.
Are you really surprised at this? You shouldn’t be.
The NFL talks a great game when they talk about character and personal conduct. But that’s all it is. Talk. The truth is the teams look at these players as assets, nothing more. The Falcons are looking at Vick and seeing a player with talent who they can use to get another player (visa a draft pick) who can help them win. The 49ers look at Vick (and their quarterback situation) and see a player who can help them win more games right now. If they acquire Vick, you can bet they’ll talk about a player deserving a second chance, but the truth is – behind closed doors – they see Vick as someone who will help them win games, which is really what the NFL is all about.
You don’t believe me? Let me ask you this. If it weren’t Michael Vick. Let’s say it was some run of the mill backup quarterback who found himself in Vick’s situation. Do you think teams around the league would have interest? Do you think the Falcons would be shopping his rights, or do you think they would just cut him and let him go where he wants to go? If it weren’t Vick – if it were a lesser player – teams would stay away, and the Falcons would cut him rather than trade him.
But it is Michael Vick. Just like it was Leonard Little of the Rams. Just like it was Tank Johnson, who got another chance with Dallas. Just like it was Pac Man Jones. Just like it was Terrell Owens.
Bottom line is that if you’re a player the NFL regards as having talent, or something left in the tank, it doesn’t matter what you have done off the field. You’re going to get another chance. Teams make more money if they win. General Managers and coaches have more job security if their teams win.
This is not isolated to the NFL. MLB, the NBA – they all take chances on players with questionable character if that player is someone who can help them win.
Does Vick deserve a chance? I wouldn’t sign him, but I understand that many people feel differently. I just wish that teams would be honest when they talk about players like him.
Instead of saying they are helping Vick get a fresh start, the Falcons should just come out and say they moved him because what’s coming back in return is something that can help them win.
Instead of dancing around the issue, Mike Singletary should just say that he has interest in any player who can help his team win.
At least the truth would be out there, as opposed to what will be put out there when the Vick trade is eventually made.