Michael Vick Not Starting Is the NFL's Biggest Mystery

Yueh Ho@@YuehHoCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2014

New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick stands on the sidleines during an NFL preseason football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)
Tom Uhlman/Associated Press

Michael Vick may be old, currently 34 years of age, but his skills have not declined. He showed he is still one of the fastest quarterbacks in the NFL in the preseason. He also consistently wows coaches with his arm strength in practice. Dom Cosentino of NJ.com observed that Vick's deep ball is still "breathtaking."

So why is Vick a second-string player when there are QB-needy teams out there? Veteran players who boast eight seasons of starting experience are not easy to come by.

Geno Smith was named the Jets starting quarterback on August 23, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini. This comes as no surprise, as the writing was on the wall ever since the the Jets signed Vick. It was evident in the amount of first-team snaps Smith received—80 percent according to NJ.com's Cosentino. Even Vick's deference to Smith by surrendering No. 7 as his jersey number seemed to foreshadow Smith winning the job.

But while the Jets are clearly committed to Smith, there are plenty of other QB-needy teams out there. The Minnesota Vikings are starting Matt Cassel while they groom Teddy Bridgewater for the long-term. The Houston Texans are putting their faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Oakland Raiders are leaning on Matt Schaub. It's hard to imagine Vick would not be a superior option to any of those signal-callers.

Even at 34 years of age, Vick is still one of the fastest quarterbacks in the league
Even at 34 years of age, Vick is still one of the fastest quarterbacks in the leagueFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

And while Vick may be injury prone, he would still be an excellent option as a bridge quarterback, playing eight to 10 games until the rookie is ready to see minutes. It's surprising no team has given him a shot. He certainly is not as injury prone as Daunte Culpepper was late in his career, and Culpepper consistently got opportunities to start well past his prime.

The argument about Vick being too turnover-prone also falls through when we consider the turnover-prone Matt Schaub, who threw 14 interceptions in 10 games in 2013, and Matt Cassel, who threw 21 interceptions in 18 games in 2012 and 2013, are both poised to start this season.

One possibility is, even after seven years, there is still too much backlash against Vick for his involvement in an illegal dog fighting ring in 2007. While Vick has remained out of trouble since his return to football in 2009, many fans are not willing to put his past behind them. This was evident by a petition on Change.org to ban him from Jets training camp, according to Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

This angle makes sense in the context of Vick's advanced age. NFL teams may not view it as worth it to put up with the controversy of signing Vick if he would start for just one season.

On the other hand, even with his controversial past, Vick remains an incredibly popular player. Any revenue lost by fans boycotting the team would be more than made up with jersey sales. In 2009, just two years removed from Vick's conviction, he ranked fourth in the NFL in jersey sales according to CNBC's Darren Rovell. He ranked above Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning. Keep in mind this was before Vick's breakout 2010 season with the Eagles and when he was the third-string quarterback in Philly.

So why is Vick backing up Geno Smith when he is fully capable of starting for at least one more season? We may never know the answer to that question, but the answer is likely Vick himself.

According to NJ.com's Cosentino, Vick "knew the entire time that Geno was going to be the starter." Despite that knowledge, he still chose to sign with New York. And while the plan was for Smith to be given preference for the starting job, Jenny Vrentas of MMQB.SI.com reported Jets coaches were also disappointed in Vick's lack of determination to win the QB competition.

Perhaps, after 11 seasons, injuries have taken their toll on Vick. Other teams have surely contemplated his durability, and Vick may have contemplated it too.

In five years with the Eagles, Vick has broken his ribs twice, suffered two concussions, hurt his quadriceps twice and pulled a hamstring. He has taken an extraordinary amount of punishment, and at age 34, recovering from injuries is only going to get more and more difficult.

Is it worth it for a 34-year-old quarterback to sell his house, uproot his entire family, move across the country and possibly suffer serious injury when he is just a few seasons away from retirement? Minnesota is a big change from Philadelphia, while New York is just two hours away by car.

The biggest obstacle preventing Vick from starting is not the NFL. It's not his age, his turnovers or his controversial past—it's Vick himself. If he wanted to be a starter he would be suiting up in week 1 and not carrying a clipboard.

But whether it was injury, public condemnation, changing his playing style or ruthless fans, Vick has overcome a lot in his long career. Who can blame him if, for once, he just wants to spend the final years of his NFL career out of the spotlight?


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