tclakin

Why The Pats Should Sign Michael Vick (Why Not?)

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm
Get this guy a Pats jersey

Get this guy a Pats jersey

Michael Vick, the erstwhile Greatest Athlete in the NFL, was released from Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary this morning, slipping out a back entrance before dawn to evade the gathered media hordes. Looks like he’s still got his trademark elusiveness. 

With news of his release, the old debate began raging anew: Will – or should – Mike Vick play in the NFL again?

My answer: Absolutely. And I’d love to see him on the Patriots. 

He’s a phenomenal talent, a once-in-a-lifetime combination of speed and agility, and he can be had for cents on the dollar. Hell, as soon as he gets home he’s going to be starting a construction job at ten bucks an hour – I don’t think it’s going to take too much to pull him away from that. He’s a brilliant player, assuming he can regain his quickness, and he could be a huge asset to a Patriots team coming off a tough season.

You tell 'em

You tell 'em

But it’s Michael Vick we’re talking about, so there are always going to be your PETA-inclined folks who think that signing him would be just about as honorable as signing Charles Manson to a three-year deal. There are plenty of Vick haters out there who think I’m crazy for even considering him for the Pats – they have their arguments and hold strongly to them. But to those who think it’s a bad idea, I say this: What do the Pats have to lose? Why shouldn’t they sign him?

Their answers, and my rebuttals:

The Public Relations Issue

This is the big one for the Vick haters. I mean, we are talking about a guy who lorded over an enormous dog fighting ring. He was responsible (though probably not personally) for the drowning, electrocution, torture and killing of Man’s Best Friend. The saga of his conviction was flooded with gory details straight out of a Saw movie – abandonded shacks, chains, blood, rape stands, buried bodies. Michael Vick offended a nation of dog owners (some estimates say upwards of 65 million Americans own dogs) and they want vengeance. Seeing Vick back in the NFL would be a slap in the face to anybody who’s ever loved a dog, many people say. He shouldn’t be rewarded with millions of dollars – he should still be in jail! It is sentiments like these that any team signing Vick would have to deal with. If handled poorly, a Vick signing would quickly turn into a public relations nightmare. Why risk it?

Smile For the Camera, Pacman

Smile For the Camera, Pacman

Again, my answer would be why not? First of all, let’s set the story straight here: Michael Vick is guilty of a crime against animals. He never killed anyone, he never shot up a strip club like Pacman Jones or got caught drunk driving like every member of the Bengals. He didn’t put any humans in danger. Vick is responsible, at worst, for the death of dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. I grew up around dogs and I have a soft spot in my heart for our furry friends, but c’mon. Let’s be serious. In 1998, Rams defensive end Leonard Little left a birthday party drunk and crashed his car into Susan Gutweiler, killing her on impact. He served 90 days in jail and is still in the league today. Vick spent 2 years in jail and people are questioning his reinstatement. Are you kidding me? Little killed a woman – a human being! – and he played in 14 games in 2008. Compared to Little’s crime, Vick’s actions pale in comparison. We have to remember that Michael Vick isn’t the only guy killing animals these days (see: hunters, food manufacturers, your local farm, kids with BB guns). So why should he be the fall guy for everyone? It’s as if America decided to pin the transgressions of thousands on this one guy. As far as I’m concerned, Vick has already served more than enough time befitting his crime and now he deserves a second chance. 

And that’s exactly how the Patriots should spin it if they sign him – as the second-chance granting of a benevolent organization. Robert Kraft should present the situation like it’s a charity case – an kindly owner taking a troubled youth under his wing. Signing Michael Vick isn’t a public relations nightmare – it’s a public relations opportunity! If they handle it correctly (and they usually do), the Patriots can come out of a Vick signing smelling like roses. Can’t you hear it now? We believe that Michael has served his debt to society and we would love to be a part of his road to recovery. All the Pats have to do is tee it up and let Kraft and Belichick knock it out of the park. It’s PR 101. So again I say, why not?

The Patriots Already Have Tom Brady:

True, but the Patriots no longer have Matt Cassel, or any other servicable backup quarterback. The departure of Cassel left a gaping hole behind Brady – a void that neither Kevin O’Connell nor Matt Gutierrez can capably fill. Why not sign a supertalent like Vick, let him learn from Brady (aka the best quarterback in the league), and incorporate him into the Patriots system?

 

The Wildcat Formation

The Wildcat Formation

But the former superstar won’t settle for being a backup, my critics will say. First of all, I don’t think he can afford to be very picky at the moment – the man needs paychecks to climb out from under a mountain of debt – and secondly, he won’t be just a backup. That’s the beauty of it. Sure, he’ll serve as a servicable backup to Brady in case he suffers (gulp) another injury, but you simply can’t leave a weapon like Vick off the field for too long. So here’s what you do: make him a running back. Not just any running back, mind you, a Wildcat running back. That’s right, I’m talking about the Wildcat Formation with its offset offensive line and direct snaps. The Patriots already run the Wildcat from time to time so they’re familiar with it, and what better player to have taking the direct snap than the 6 foot, 215 pound, 4.3 40-running Michael Vick? Bill Belichick’s head must spin with the possibilities Vick creates coming out of the backfield. How could an opposing team possibly prepare to face a Patriots team that on one possession can trot out Tom Brady to sling long balls to Randy Moss and on another, direct-snap the ball to Vick and have him run wild? It would give coaches fits. The Miami Dolphins ran the Wildcat successfully for much of last season with Ronnie Brown – Ronnie Brown – so why wouldn’t it work with arguably the greatest pure athlete in the history of the NFL? The fact is, it would work, and the Patriots should seriously consider it. Again, why not?

The Vick Relapse Potential

I’ve heard pundits the last few days discussing the chances of Vick relapsing into his prior pattern of bad behavior if he’s able to reclaim his fame and fortune. What’s stopping Vick from simply starting down the same road all over again?, they argue.

Well, my answer is this: two years in Leavenworth are what’s going to stop him. 

Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary

Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary

Strange things happen to people in jail. They find God, they pursue a degree, they rediscover themselves. They spend a lot of time alone, thinking about why they are lying on a cot in a tiny cell and how exactly they got there. They think about freedom and many – not all, but many – come to the conclusion that once they get out of jail, they’re going to do everything they can to maintain their freedom. I would imagine that mindset would be particularly magnified for a former world famous, millionaire athlete who spent the first half of his twenties enjoying the fruits of stardom. There isn’t a bigger fall a human being could take and I bet that fact crossed Vick’s mind once or twice during an especially long night his cell. He would have to be either pretty callous or pretty dumb to risk going back to jail if he is ever able to reclaim his former superstar perch.

But the beauty of the NFL is this – if he does screw up again, the Patriots can cut him. It’s as easy as that. Call it a social experiment, call it a roll of the dice, call it whatever, but signing Michael Vick amounts to a nothing-to-lose scenario for the Patriots. Either he becomes an instant impact player as a Wildcat back, slashing and burning his way to the end zone, or he fizzles out, sulking on the sidelines and contemplating Bad Newz Kennelz 2. Either he’s a star again and you celebrate, or he’s a malcontent and you cut him. There’s no gray area, and no reason not to give it a shot. The Pats gave Randy Moss a second chance after every other team – even the lowly, desperate Raiders – had written him off, and look how that turned out. And while Vick and Moss were in the league at the same time, there was no arguing who was the bigger star: #7.

Vick was a play-maker

Vick was a play-maker

In the wake of his dog fighting conviction and two year jail sentence, I think we’ve all forgotten just how good Michael Vick really was – not neccessarily at the quarterback position, but certainly at making things happen on a football field. He was lightning fast, willing to take a hit, and had an absolute laser arm. When he was drafted, NFL experts thought he was literally going to revolutionize the league. 

Well he didn’t end up doing that, but anyone who watched Vick play knows that with the ball in his hands he was a force to be reckoned with. And if he can revolutionize himself – which I think he has done – perhaps he can be one again. The Patriots owe it to themselves to at least find out. 

Why not?

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