As I sat watching Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles destroy the Washington Redskins on Monday, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Why couldn't you do this when you were with Atlanta, Mike?"
Now, for Atlanta, the situation seems to have worked out. For all we know, Matt Ryan could become the face of the NFL. He is far more advanced as a third-year player than Vick ever was in his six seasons with the Falcons.
Vick could also completely flame-out for the remainder of this season and his career, as unlikely as it currently seems.
But, as I watched Vick play as the unstoppable force everyone in Atlanta hoped he would become, I couldn't help but feel a little sad. Maybe even a bit angry.
It's not the felony dog-fighting charges that landed him in prison I'm upset with.
Everyone makes mistakes. Vick's were obviously extremely heinous, and many will never forgive him, which is their right.
I can let that go, though.
I understand that Vick grew up without a real father-figure in his life, in one of the worst areas of the country. There were highly negative influences all around him. In some ways, it's a small miracle that he made it out of there alive.
Also, how many people do you think ever said "No" to Michael Vick, knowing how much money he would one day be worth?
If you watched his 60 Minutes interview from over a year ago, you heard Vick describe how he was first taken to a dog fight when he was seven years old, presumably by someone he looked up to.
He also explained how police did not break up dog fights, even when they were happening out in the open, adding to the feeling that it was okay to be involved with it.
It was also Vick who reached out to the Humane Society while in prison and it is Vick who is doing his best to educate younger people in an attempt to prevent them from making the same mistakes he did.
For these reasons, I have been able to give him a pass on that one. It is not about what he did in the past, but what he does from here on out in regards to that.
Where my problem comes from is that Vick has admitted to terrible work habits in his time with the Falcons.
In his own words, he was the "last guy in and the first guy out."
I, for one, and I know there were many others, defended Vick for his inconsistent play just about everyday to friends, coworkers, fellow students, you name it.
If you spent any time on the Atlanta Falcons message boards during his time there, you know just how polarizing the man was.
I would tell anyone who would listen that the players around him weren't any good. It's the coaching. It's the schemes. It's the schedule, it's not fair.
I would say these things to anybody who dared to question Vick, blinded by his potential.
Looking back, it was quite clear that Vick was not well-prepared; his make-the-first-read-then-take-off-running quarterbacking was certainly exciting, but it reeked of a player who was not watching enough film.
In his defense, it is strangely more understandable for a player with his athletic ability to have poor work habits.
Defensive players probably never laid a hand on him in high school, and college came just as easy. He likely thought it would be more of the same in the NFL.
Hey, at times it was.
Players are quick to find, though, that you can't get by on ability alone in professional football. It's a whole different animal and you are not bigger, stronger and faster than everybody else like you were at the lower levels.
Vince Young and Reggie Bush are two other recent players who had to learn this the hard way.
Still, the Atlanta organization bent over backwards for Mike Vick, similar to what the Cleveland Cavaliers did for LeBron James.
What Falcon fan can forget the image of owner Arthur Blank wheeling his quarterback around in a wheelchair when Vick broke his leg?
The Falcons went through a string of quarterback coaches in an attempt at getting Vick to be more accurate, and the hiring of Bobby Petrino was specifically made so that the coach could take him to the next level.
Petrino said the only reason he took the job was to coach Vick. Once he was gone, so was Petrino, quitting in the middle of the season.
If you include their trade with Buffalo for Peerless Price, the Falcons spent three straight first-round picks on receivers, the other two being Michael Jenkins and Roddy White.
Still, the argument was that Vick had no receivers.
Price is out of the league, but Jenkins has become a solid possession receiver and White is currently playing at an out of this world level.
It's no longer a valid excuse.
I forgive Vick for all his transgressions. He was a young man who was clearly misguided and needed to learn some lessons in an extremely hard fashion.
He's finally proving me right, but it's for the wrong team.
The Eagles knocked the Falcons out of the playoffs in both of their appearances with Vick at quarterback, making it a funny twist when he signed with them.
Again, I cannot express how happy I am with the direction of this Atlanta team in 2010. They appear to be a team that will contend for many, many years.
Vick's Falcons jersey is still the only one I own, however, something I obviously need to update.
Every time I look at it, though, I can't help but wonder, "What if?"
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