Following a brief statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did what was expected yesterday by initiating the process of reinstating quarterback Michael Vick. There were certain stipulations put in place to continue the evaluation process, including the assignment of Indianapolis Colts head coach, Tony Dungy, as his personal mentor.
The league also withheld a final decision on granting full reinstatement by establishing an evaluation period. The commissioner will issue a final ruling on Vick's reinstatement within the first six weeks of the regular season.
Vick can now begin the process of finding an NFL team interested in his services so that he can begin earning again. With the terms of a bankruptcy agreement looming, Vick now has to find a way to generate enough income to pay off his mounting bills totaling more than $20 million.
Once signed, Vick can participate in training camp and in preseason games. He will be forced to wait for Goodell to issue a final ruling at some point during the first six weeks of the season, but he can practice with the team during that period.
So, Michael Vick is getting a second chance in the National Football League.
Should it matter to the Jacksonville Jaguars?
The debate has been a lingering discussion over the past few months as fans endure the infamous dead zone of the NFL calendar year, as they are waiting for training camp to begin and football to return.
The discussions pop up any time a talking head who knows little to nothing about the Jaguars decides to throw their name in the hat among teams that should be interested in his services.
One of their biggest points supporting the idea is ticket sales. Somehow, Michael Vick is going to generate this rush for ticket sales and magically make the blackout issues disappear.
These puppets obviously know very little about the Jacksonville market or how signing a player like Michael Vick would impact the Jaguars in the Jacksonville community.
What would signing Michael Vick really do for the Jaguars?
It would impact the team in one of three different ways.
First, it could potentially fracture an already fragile fan base.
Fans that might be teetering on the fence over their ticket purchases might be more inclined to bail on the team if they see the front office bringing in a player with the mediocre resume and the epic criminal record.
Second, it could rattle the confidence the fans have in the front office.
During this offseason every move made has been focused on ridding the roster of distractions and restoring character as a primary factor in player acquisition. Bringing in Vick would undermine all of the work done by Gene Smith in rebuilding the roster, and paint him as a hypocrite.
While he has certainly paid for his crimes, there is still a significant stigma associated with the Michael Vick brand.
Finally, any team that takes a gamble and signs Vick will deal with the fallout with the weekly protests at games and the hecklers in the stands for open practices. The team will contend with potential boycotts, and bad press surrounding the past mistakes made by the player.
Whether that is fair or not is irrelevant. The bottom line here is the fact that the Jaguars are already a team struggling to build a following. Signing a player with the type of baggage that Vick brings to the party could introduce a lightning rod that could blow up in their face.
For a team already playing it so close to the margin right now, this type of move carries far too much risk from a business perspective.
This is nothing against Michael Vick. It is simply a prudent approach for a team trying to create a positive identity in the Jacksonville community.
Having an athlete the caliber of Vick would be wonderful for any team if he was capable of getting back to the level he was at previously. However, he has been away from the game for two years. His training regimen has been focused on avoiding deep knee bends in the shower in recent years.
Overshadowed by the hoopla of Vick being reinstated is the fact that he was nothing more than a marginally average quarterback with outstanding scrambling abilities. His career completion percentage barely cracks fifty percent (53.8%), and his quarterback rating is a dismal 75.7.
If the Jaguars are looking to make an upgrade at the backup position for quarterback, this is probably not the best approach. There were better options for finding a more effective passer if the intent is to improve the position. Vick would be more of a curiosity and a media focal point than an improvement over the current situation.
The negatives surrounding the return of Michael Vick to the NFL far outweigh the benefits for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The front office should continue to focus on building the team the right way, identifying talent that fits with the big picture mindset.
That means players need to be quality individuals both on and off the field. The team should not deviate from this blueprint established under general manager, Gene Smith. The effort should be allowed to run its course to see if the strategy allows the team to rebound quickly from previous struggles.
No doubt, Michael Vick should get a chance to resurrect his NFL career. It just needs to happen somewhere other than in Jacksonville.
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