As the Jaguars continue to tweak their roster, new general manager Gene Smith has been content to target players with limited off-field baggage. After dealing with enough problems with players running afoul of the law, a different approach was needed in order to restore some level of control, and Smith has put an emphasis on character with nearly every move made so far.
With that simple fact in mind, the buzz this week was amplified significantly when Michael Vick was released from federal prison to serve the remainder of his sentence for financing a dog fighting ring under house arrest and limited work release.
As is normally the case when a high profile name appears to be available, the debates begin over whether or not the Jaguars should actively pursue the player. This discussion heats up even more when a talking head somewhere in the national media mentions the player and the Jaguars in the same breath.
The reality is that Michael Vick is not a good fit for the Jacksonville Jaguars; it does not get any simpler than that.
For a team that has spent the past few months ridding itself of players that have created problems for themselves ranging from drug busts to DUI, the team has focused on cleaning house to get rid of these problem children. The Jaguars hope by putting an emphasis on character and leadership, they can return to a more successful experience on the field. The model worked previously in Jacksonville under Tom Coughlin.
No matter how someone tries to spin it, the team would not be better off in pursuing a player like Michael Vick. There was a time when he was a highly touted athlete with endorsement deals and a budding legend as the starting quarterback in Atlanta. Michael Vick squandered that when he showed a serious lack of judgment in his business dealings away from football.
These shortcomings were not only unsavory, but they also violated federal law.
He has served his time and paid his debt to society. There will certainly be an opportunity for him to resurrect his NFL career with some team once he is reinstated by the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. It just should not be here in Jacksonville.
To be clear, this has nothing to do with the specific details of his imprisonment as much as it has to do with the clear lack of judgment on the part of Vick. What he was convicted of was truly reprehensible, but it was the lack of a moral compass that landed him in prison.
It is not about dog fighting, or animal cruelty; it is about a person who did not have the moral clarity to recognize a problem in such activities.
It is about a person who had every opportunity to create a better life for himself through his athletic gift, but chose to squander it away because he was unable to shed the sycophants he had associated with in a previous life.
He was unable to appreciate the gift handed to him on a silver platter. He leveraged the mindset of entitlement that is normally bestowed upon athletes that rise to the top of their game, convincing him that he could get away with anything. He was above the law.
It is about a complete lack of judgment.
I have seen the broad spectrum of arguments from those supporting the notion of bringing him to Jacksonville:
He'll sell more tickets. He'll push David Garrard. He'll be better than either of the current backup quarterbacks on the roster. He'll create buzz for the team.
Each one of these points can be dispatched pretty quickly.
First, for every fan that he might attract to the Jaguars, there will be at least one fan that becomes disenchanted by such a signing.
Many fans are encouraged by Smith's character-first approach because it parallels the Tom Coughlin era, where personal responsibility was a trademark of the players that the former head coach brought to Jacksonville. They like the current trend, and signing a player with as much baggage as Vick totes would derail that very quickly.
Michael Vick has not played football or worked out in an NFL regimen for two years. It is physically impossible for him to be properly conditioned to resume his NFL career and push a starting quarterback for his job. Vick will be no exception to that fact, and because he has not been exposed to an NFL playbook, the learning curve would be severe.
While Vick might be potentially better than either Cleo Lemon or Todd Bouman, he is at a distinct disadvantage—not only because of conditioning, but also because both players have extensive experience working within the Jaguars current offensive system, and they are familiar with the personnel.
It also remains to be seen if the Jaguars plan to stick with either of their current backup quarterbacks. There are other options available to them that would be significantly better than Michael Vick, and they would not bring the same level of scrutiny to the team that he would upon signing.
Buzz is a highly subjective term. There's good buzz, and there's bad buzz. While this is a Jaguars team that is certainly a small market franchise in search of the positive chatter, signing Michael Vick would not provide them with anything of the sort. Rather, it would create a media circus with animal rights protesters greeting the team at home and on the road.
That certainly is not the type of exposure that the team would be able to rely upon to generate ticket and merchandise sales. In fact, it could very quickly backfire on the Jaguars.
In the end, the Jaguars are focused on building a team that is loaded with talent, but without sacrificing on character.
Gene Smith has said repeatedly that character issues would not be tolerated, and his actions back that up with the departure of players like Reggie Williams, Khalif Barnes, Matt Jones, and Gerald Sensabaugh.
Why anyone believes that he would suddenly have a change of heart because he has the opportunity to sign a player in Michael Vick—who has not been on a field competitively for two years—is a complete mystery.
For a team that is struggling mightily to regain confidence from the local fan base, signing a player like Vick would spoil an otherwise solid offseason. The damage that it could cause would take considerable effort to undo, creating an even steeper hill for the team to climb to restore fan confidence.
One bad move could undo all of Gene Smith's efforts to get the Jacksonville Jaguars back on the winning track both on the field and with their fans.
Signing Michael Vick would be the type of move that would destroy any hope this team has of turning things around quickly on both fronts.
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