Earlier this month, I praised the Eagles for making the savvy move of slapping the franchise tag on Michael Vick. In the interest of full disclosure, I was completely against the signing of Vick in 2008 (I thought it would bring an unnecessary media circus to every Eagles game that season,) and I was a member of Team Kolb last year after Kolb went down and Vick took over as starting quarterback. I admit I was very wrong on both counts. Vick was magnificent last year, and should be the starter for our Philadelphia Eagles.
Over the last two seasons, Vick has proven himself to be an asset to the team both on and off the field. The work he has done with animal rights groups and talking to children about his past is well documented and admirable. The leadership and loyalty that he’s developed both in the locker room and on the field is phenomenal. The level that Reid and Mornhinweg have brought his quarterback play up to is astounding. The keys to his renaissance in Philadelphia seem to be the acceptance of his mistakes off the field as well as with the Falcons and his new-found humbleness.
As the 2010 season was winding to a close, he was clearly on the road to redemption. But then a major demon that can bring down the best of men started to rear its ugly head. Hype. And Michael may not be immune.
MVP talks started in late November for Vick, and I’m not arguing that he didn’t deserve to be in that conversation. He handled the talk in the proper way, down playing in the media, and still played some tremendous games. Everyone looks back at the Giants game on December 19th as one of the greatest Eagles win of all times. (No argument here.) We all remember the Birds scored 28 points in the last 7:30 to come from behind to win the game. But we don’t remember how stymied the offense looked for the first 3 1/2 quarters. Let me be crystal clear, I am not taking anything away from that comeback, but in the last four games of the season, Vick really only had about 1/2 of a quarter of good football.
Why? Was it the MVP talk? The SI cover? The call from President Obama? The impending lucrative contract? My guess was it was a mix of all of it as well as the beating his body had taken over the season. And over the last month or so since the season ended, there have been whispers slowly leaking out of the Novacare complex that Vick wasn’t working as hard at the end of the season as he had at the beginning and was starting to rely solely on his abilities again like in Atlanta. That’s a major problem.
Also remember, there were rumors that Reid was considering sitting Vick and playing Kolb in the playoffs. I don’t believe that for a second. That was most likely to try to motivate Vick as well as make Green Bay prepare for both QBs. But the rumor were there.
Before you jump all over me and say that Vick was beat up and injured at the end of the year, so I don’t know jack, I’ll give you that. I could be completely off base on my read of the whole situation. If he threw that his last pass of the year to Riley Cooper a foot higher, the Birds probably would have beaten the Super Bowl champion Packers in the first round. But mix the on the field play with a couple of incidents since the end of the season, and now the Couch is worried.
Vick was going to host a Super Bowl party in Dallas during Super Bowl week, which was a horrible idea considering the last party he hosted ended with a shooting. Fortunately, someone got into his ear and the party was canceled. This week, there was big news that Vick was going to go on Oprah. Not necessarily the best idea in the world, but not the worst one either. It seemed like something where he had more of an opportunity to look bad than come out looking good. Then suddenly on Wednesday, it was announced that he would not go on Oprah. Which now seems to be the right call, since there are reports that “owners of Vick’s dogs “flooded” the Oprah show with calls.” But the canceling out of commitments never looks good.
So here’s my question: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??? After a year and a half of smart and safe public relations moves (for the most part), Vick now seems to be flying by the seat of his pants, and possibly letting some of the wrong people make decisions for him again. He or his camp have made two questionable decisions in less than a month and then cancelled them. Cancelling arguably was the right thing to do, but it also makes the story live longer in the press. It also makes Vick look less in control. Not a good look for him. (Or anyone for that matter.)
This off-season is going to be a big window into who Vick 2.0 really is. We’ve see that he can be contrite and work hard to regain his image and status in the NFL. That’s the easy part. The difficult part is doing the daily grind of working hard and staying on the straight and narrow day in and day out. I pray for his sake and the Eagles sake he can do it. He was something special to watch on the field last year. I would love to be able to watch it for a few more years. But I’m starting to worry, and we’re not even two weeks into the off-season yet.