Just hours after the once-famous-now-infamous Michael Vick was released from jail and returned home, questions were already being thrown around media outlets and doubtless some NFL front offices: Can he still play? Will he be allowed to? Do we want to sign this guy?
The man who has become the face of NFL player misconduct was one of the most exciting players in recent memory, and aside from flippin' the bird to some angry fans and, y'know, being involved in the biggest NFL scandal in the last decade, Michael Vick was once the face of the Falcons and more than a few corporations. He was the first visiting QB to win a playoff game at Lambeau Field, and, despite his erratic play, he led Atlanta to the NFC Championship game.
Idolized by Madden players everywhere, Vick was a nightmare for defenses with his running ability. Although his passing lacked the accuracy of Manning or Brees, it was still a threat. However, on the flip side, he ran an illegal dogfighting ring where some atrocious actions were taken against dogs (click here all gluttons for punishment—he makes Cruella DeVille look like St. Francis Assisi).
The question now circles as to whether he'll ever play in the NFL again. He'll have to be reinstated by Roger Goodell after lying to him in face-to-face about his involvement in the dogfighting (miiiiistaaaaaaaaaaaaaake) and a team will have to take a chance on a player who with an erratic statistical record and an appalling off-the-field one too.
Vick never had a QB rating higher than 81 for a season, only played 16 games once in six years, and was labeled a running QB, not a passer. However, he was also selected to three Pro Bowls and holds the record for most rushing yards by a QB in a single season (1,039 in 2006).
In this commentor's opinion, Vick should never be allowed in the NFL again. Ever. His off-the-field actions were above and beyond what any recent offender has done, and the horrific level of cruelty to which these innocent animals were subjected is inexcusable.
Regardless of the man's talent, he's not only a recently-incarcerated felon, but he also lied to the NFL Commissioner (and a court) instead of confessing. Given Roger Goodell's zero-tolerance reputation, it will be extremely surprising if Vick is given anything less than a lifetime ban from the NFL and anything to do with it.
I, for one, would applaud that action. Ex-cons deserve a second chance at life, true, but ex-cons don't deserve a second chance at one of the most prestigious, best-paid jobs in the world when they have proved themselves not worthy of it.
Anyway, ranting aside, if Vick is reinstated, he will face an uphill struggle to get picked up by an NFL team. The proliferation of the wildcat offense makes him an attractive weapon, but Bill Parcells isn't the kind of man to sign Michael Vick, especially given that he selected ex-Mountaineer Pat White in the draft to use as a wildcat knuckleball.
The most obvious landing spots for troubled-but-talented players in the past have been Oakland and Dallas. However, with the Cowboys' cutting of T.O., Tank Johnson, and Pacman 'make it rain' Jones in the last two seasons, it's becoming apparent that Jerry Jones now realizes that risk outweighs reward and has acted accordingly by cutting out low-character players.
That leaves Oakland as the most obvious place for Vick to land. However, the Raiders already have a talented young nucleus on offense—JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Johnnie Lee Higgins, and Darrius Heyward-Bey—even a man as craz-*cough* interesting as Al Davis may not want to introduce an erratic veteran who will bring more media scrutiny and possibly destroy team chemistry.
All told, I think Vick has played his last down in the National Football League. Even if he is reinstated (and that's the biggest "if" in pro sports right now), a team will have to deem that enormous media attention, very possible fan disgust, and locker room division are worth the price of a talented athlete who hasn't done any meaningful football training in two years.
Vick's possible re-entry into the NFL will have to come from an incredibly forgiving commisioner's reinstatement and a team willing to take a big chance. In this NFL age of financial crisis and risk minimizing, it seems unlikely that Ron Mexico will be back in an NFL uniform.
And in this man's opinion, that's how it should be.
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