Today Michael Vick announced his NFL retirement so now we’ve seen the conclusion to a dynamic, polarizing, and even controversial career. Very few players captivated the imaginations of NFL fans and observers like Vick did, but only time will tell how he’s remembered.
Coming out of Virginia Tech he was seen as the perfect specimen with his athleticism, speed, mobility, awareness, and arm strength. Yet in spite of this, the total package just never came together for him, on and off the field.
Despite an intriguing and productive start we saw the second half of his career be tarnished off the field after being the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. It seems only fitting that his retirement be anti-climactic and time will tell if his reputation can ever be completely restored.
The Falcons took Vick with the first pick at the 2001 NFL Draft making him the first African-American quarterback with that distinction. Looking at his tenure in Atlanta the impact that Vick had more than made him worthy of the selection. He led the Falcons to the playoffs twice and was also selected to the Pro Bowl three times. Individually Vick threw for 71 touchdowns with 52 interceptions but also had 21 rushing touchdowns showcasing the athleticism that made him must see NFL television.
In fact, his dual threat talent remind many fans of Randall Cunningham during his prime years with the Philadelphia Eagles. In Vick’s final season with the Falcons in 2006 he rushed for 1,039 yards on the ground but also threw for 2,474 passing yards in the air, unfortunately that would be the last time we’d see such greatness.
In 2007 Vick was arrested for his involvement in a dog fighting ring. Immediately his image was tarnished, from getting released from the team to getting dropped by his endorsements.
Many sports stars have seen their shares of trouble with the law, from drunk driving to disorderly conduct but something such as dog fighting truly hit home for a lot of people. The thought of innocent dogs being used for profit and amusement quickly had NFL fans turn on Vick, something that to this day hasn’t been forgotten. The details of abuse, torture, and killing that were released by the court also did not help Vick’s case.
All in all Vick served his time and he paid the price on the field by missing two full seasons of football, the two seasons that might’ve seen Vick take his game to a whole another level. One can only wonder what might’ve been in Atlanta just by looking at the trend he was following, his passing game would’ve improved as the team continued to build around him. Speaking of the Falcons, Vick’s actions also derailed the Falcons as a team on the field, though for their patience the team did end up with another Pro Bowl quarterback by the name of Matt Ryan. (Worked out for the Falcons in that regard)
With that being said it was the Philadelphia Eagles that gave Vick his second chance though ironically he wasn’t meant to be a quarterback with the team, since the Eagles still had All Pro Donovan McNabb.
During the 2009 season Vick did not see much action under head coach Andy Reid, however the following year was a different story.
Under Reid, Vick started 12 out of 12 games and led the team to the playoffs while earning a Pro Bowl selection in the process. It seemed for a moment Vick was going to pick up right where he left off and turn a page in his career in Philadelphia. His numbers that year also backed up that case as he threw for 3,018 yards, completed 233 out 372 pass attempts and an impressive 21 touchdowns with only six interceptions. He also only rushed for 95 yards perhaps a sign he was becoming a more complete quarterback under a new head coach and a new system.
In the long run unfortunately, it only proved to be an enigma. From that season on Vick saw a decline in his numbers, combined a limited role he played with two more teams after the Eagles. With the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers his numbers hit all-time lows in limited action. With the Steelers he started three games for an injured Ben Roethlisberger and had dismal numbers with only two touchdown passes and only 371 passing yards, and a QB rating of 31.78.
It will be left up to writers if he can ever be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and by the same token it will be up to the fans how he’s remember despite his numbers. Truly a sports tragedy I’m sure it won’t be the final time any of us revisit Vick’s career.