Michael Vick was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.
Even with his jail sentence, it doesn’t seem that long ago that Vick was a fresh faced rookie turning around a floundering Atlanta Falcons franchise.
A lot has changed since the first time I saw Vick stand on a football field in Philly—which was November of 1999, my junior year of college at Temple. I (and the 30 or 40 suckers…err, Owls supporters), who actually went to the game, saw Vick's alma mater, Virginia Tech, roll Temple 62-7.
Vick, who was a red-shirt freshman at the time, had 134 rushing yards, 171 passing yards and four total touchdowns—one of which was a 75-yard scamper where not a soul touched him.
And to think, he left halfway through the third quarter.
I was on the sidelines, videotaping the game for highlights in that week’s edition of “Temple Update.” My roommate was on the football team, and I remember exactly what he said after the game: “(Bleep).”
Oddly enough, 1999 was the beginning of the Andy Reid era in Philly, and the 2001 season ended with the first of the Eagles’ five NFC Championship Game appearances under his watch.
There’s correlation, synergy, or some other buzzword there.
In looking back at the Eagles’ own draft that year, it turned out to be a very fruitful one.
In the first round, the Birds selected No. 25 and took one of the most bizarre characters in team history: Freddie Mitchell.
Yes, “FredEx” was a first-round draft pick.
While he’ll never be forgotten for being the receiver on the business end of “4th-and-26,” Mitchell’s career in Philly was otherwise a bust. From 2001-04, he recorded 90 catches for 1,263 yards and 5 TD—or roughly what DeSean Jackson has already done in one season.
Following four years of shenanigans and some harsh criticisms of the team, Mitchell was released in May 2005. He caught on in Kansas City, but was dumped before the 2005 season started, and later had failed tryouts for several other teams—including the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts.
He now owns a Bar-B-Q restaurant in Lakeland, Florida…and he has a blog. And yes, he’s still entertaining.
The middle rounds produced a quartet that sounds like it should be a Chronicles of Narnia book: The Bust, the Breakout, the Backup, and the Bengal.
The “bust” was second round pick Quinton Caver, a linebacker who had all of 19 tackles in two seasons as an Eagle, and faded away after a few more mediocre seasons in the NFL. The “Bengal” was an early fifth-round pick and former Penn State TE Tony Stewart, who caught a half-dozen balls as a rookie, but faded to the practice squad in 2002 and then spent five years in Cincinnati.
The other two are much more noteworthy.
The “breakout” was third-rounder Derrick Burgess. Before he was terrorizing AFC defenses as a Raider (and now a Patriot), Burgess was part of Jim Johnson’s famed rotation at defensive end. And as a rookie in 2001, he played in every game and had six sacks.
Then came the “break”…literally.
Burgess broke his foot in Week One of the 2002 season and missed the whole year—only to also miss 2003 because of a torn Achilles tendon. He returned in 2004 and played well, starting 12 games and recording five and a half total sacks (three of which came in the post-season).
Then he fled to Oakland, and the rest is history.
The “backup” you ask? Why, none other than fourth-round pick Correll Buckhalter.
I really have nothing snarky to say about CB. Sure, he missed three of his first five seasons, but when healthy he did a great job as a backup to/complement with/fill-in for Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook. He even holds the Eagles’ franchise record for rushing yards by a rookie (586, if you’re counting at home).
He’s great…except he’s now in Denver.
But perhaps the greatest—or at least the most ironic—pick was the Eagles’ last: Oregon QB AJ Feeley.
He’s had one heck of a career path. As a second-year man in 2002, he won four of his five starts as a fill-in for Donovan McNabb and led the Eagles to the playoffs.
He didn’t see one snap in 2003, was traded to Miami (and subsequently to San Diego), came back as a free agent in 2006 and has pretty much been Captain Clipboard ever since. Well, minus those two games in 2007 where he almost led the Eagles to wins over Seattle and then-undefeated New England—and probably would have if he didn’t throw seven total picks in the process.
It’s almost fitting that he’s the guy whose job is most in jeopardy because of Vick’s acquisition.
Weird how that works out, no?
Enjoy Michael Vick’s debut. I sure will.
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