Although it was a bit of a surprise to see Michael Vick sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, they are probably one of the best options for a quarterback who is trying to make his way back into the NFL after two years in prison.
The Eagles have the luxury of bringing in a guy who may or may not perform because they are built to win now and don’t really need the guy. They have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Donovan McNabb, and he won’t bat an eye at the signing of Vick.
Instead, McNabb, one of the league’s most respected players (well, outside the city where he plays), will serve as a mentor to a fellow black quarterback. It’s a smart pairing by the Eagles and Vick’s agent, Joel Segal.
Vick can learn from McNabb while he re-acclimates to the NFL, with no pressure of having to be the leader of a team. McNabb is the leader of the Eagles, and nothing will change that in the next two years. Meanwhile, for a year at least, Vick has a chance to make himself a better person by emulating McNabb.
The Eagles are already stacked on offense, with Brian Westbrook and rookie LeSean McCoy at running back and DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown at receiver. They don’t need Vick, but if he is able to integrate into their offense, he could contribute at some point.
At this point, no team should expect Vick to play quarterback for them on a regular basis. He has been out of the league for two years and is not familiar with any system. So the Eagles likely will bring him along slowly and, assuming he has not lost any of the athleticism that made him what he was before, find ways to utilize him within their West Coast scheme. That is the one offense he has experience in, so it's another reason this pairing makes sense.
Vick probably won’t have a big role for the Eagles early in the season, but he might help out in the second half. Reid is an imaginative play caller, and he probably will find creative ways to use Vick while not taking his best offensive player—McNabb—off the field.
That should serve as the best possible way for Vick to rejoin the league with as little pressure as possible, taking advantage of a team that has a Pro Bowl quarterback and a mostly veteran roster.
The Eagles really risk nothing in this move. And coach Andy Reid might be able to identify with Vick due to the fact that both of Reid’s sons have been convicted of drug-related felonies. Reid’s oldest son is still in prison. Perhaps Reid learned a lesson from that and will be able to help McNabb mentor Vick. And then perhaps Vick can help Reid’s boys turn their lives around as well.
Of course, the flip-side argument goes like this: If Andy Reid couldn’t even raise his kids right, how can he be expected to have any kind of positive personal influence on Vick? Well, if he can’t, that’s what McNabb is for.
One of the big factors for a lot of teams in deciding whether to pursue Vick was the public-relations backlash that might ensue. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie obviously is not concerned about that, and why should he be? After all, Philadelphia is a blue-collar town known oxymoronically as the City of Brotherly Love, not the City of Dog Lovers. Eagles fans don’t even have compassion for people; why the hell would they care about animals?
Yes, PETA is based not far away in Virginia. But Vick has made peace with that organization and has been making appearances for the Humane Society. And the Eagles reportedly checked with them, too. So if PETA doesn’t make any noise, no one in Philly will.
In the end, the Eagles simply have provided Vick a way to get back into the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell could make him eligible to play in games any time before Week 6, and the Eagles probably got assurances that, as long as Vick doesn’t do anything stupid, he will be eligible. Otherwise, the Eagles would not have invested $1.6 million in Vick.
Of course, it certainly won’t be long before Eagles fans are chanting for Vick to replace McNabb. What else is new? That’s why Vick should be a good fit in Philly, the blue-collar city whose fans don’t care what you did yesterday, just what you’re going to do today.
Two former sports reporters freed from the constraints of traditional print media write about the hot topics on both the Seattle and national sports scene. No deadlines, no word count, no press box decorum — we're Outside The Press Box.