When Michael Vick came to the Philadelphia Eagles, he came as a man with a cloud over his head. He’ll leave in much better shape.
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
When Michael Vick left the field with a concussion in the Philadelphia Eagles home loss to the Dallas Cowboys back in November, I knew that his time as the Birds starting quarterback was over even before Andy Reid announced his decision to bench him for the season earlier this week.
Between the league’s concussion protocols and the fact that the 2012 Eagles are going to be watching the playoffs at home with the rest of us, Reid did Vick a favor by shutting him down and allowing him to preserve himself for a potential opportunity elsewhere in the NFL.
Now that Vick’s time in Philadelphia is likely done, how will he be remembered? If you’re accentuating the positive, you’ll remember him as a guy who revived his career after serving time in a federal penitentiary and was a model citizen off the field.
Despite protests from animal rights groups, Vick did everything to atone for his sin of leading a dog-fighting ring in Virginia. Even when people felt like it wasn’t enough, Vick didn’t have anything bad to say about those who doubted his sincerity. He went out into the local community and became a spokesman against dog-fighting.
For a lot of young kids in Philadelphia, Vick is a role model for coming back from difficult circumstances and making something positive out of their lives. I remember when Vick had the undivided attention of kids at an event at the Franklin Institute back in 2010 when he told them not go down the path he took with his life.
“He’s made a commitment to be headed in the right direction. I think we ought to cheer him and provide with as much support as possible,” said James Brown, host of CBS NFL Today, .in an interview I did with him at that event.
More recently, he donated $200,000 to the North Philadelphia Aztecs youth football team to fix their playing field as a part of the Hunting Park Revitalization Project. The field will be ready by 2013.
On the football side, we will remember the Vick that electrified the NFL in 2010 with 21 touchdown passes including engineering that spectacular comeback against the New York Giants. He passed for 3,018 yards that season and completed more than 60 percent of his passes.
Vick’s time in Philly hit a great big thud in a 2010 home game against the Minnesota Vikings that ended up being played on a Tuesday because of a snowstorm. Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier devised a scheme of blitzes and defensive line stunts that totally confused Vick. The Vikings sacked him six times in that game and intercepted one pass.
That scheme became a blueprint to stop the Eagles offense. For some reason neither Vick or the Eagles offensive coaching staff has been able to counter it. Some critics point to the lack of adjustments from the Eagles coaching staff while some pointed to Vick’s inability to recognize the blitz. He has won just 10 of his last 23 starts since that start against the Vikings.
In 2011, Vick threw 18 touchdown passes, but also threw 14 interceptions and also had four fumbles. He passed for 3,303 yards. He was sacked 23 times and missed three games due to injury.
In just nine games this season in 2012, Vick was sacked 27 times and was hit numerous times behind an injury-riddled offensive line. He threw nine interceptions and lost five fumbles.
But in Vick’s defense this season he managed to win three games in come-from behind fashion and put the team in position to two others. Ever since the last-second loss to Pittsburgh, the Eagles defense hasn’t done much to stop teams.
I believe that if you’re going to say Vick bears some of the responsibility for his refusal at times to slide to get out of harm’s way or even recognize certain blitz packages, you also have to look at the injuries in the offensive line and Reid’s stubborn refusal to utilize the running game at times to take the pressure off of him.
Vick’s issues as a quarterback were not from a lack of effort or hard work on his part. His teammates and coaches will tell you that he was a warrior on the field.
“I will always be appreciative of what Mike did for me and what he did for this locker room,” said wide receiver Jason Avant. “He’s inspired so many people with his personality and who he is as a player.”
Even with his turnovers, I still think Vick gave his all here in Philadelphia on and off the field. It was spectacular at times and it was ugly at other times. He didn’t throw his coaches or teammates under the bus when things were going bad for him. He maintained his dignity and kept fighting until he couldn’t fight anymore
More than being just a better quarterback, I think Vick should be remembered during his time in Philly because he became a better man and that’s something bigger than any accolades he could ever receive on the field.