What's the Deal with Michael Vick?

Michael Vick Donovan McNabb NFL Philadelphia Eagles Rumors Trades

We’ve been through the whole gamut of emotions with Michael Vick: surprise when he was signed, excitement about the wildcat, boredom when he didn’t seem to have much impact, expectation that he was going to be traded, and now maybe even resignation that he might be Kevin Kolb’s back-up.

So what gives? Where are we with 7? And why have we been through such a bizarre offseason?

I think it all goes back to Vick’s goal when he signed with the Eagles. Tony Dungy and others said he could have gone in and competed for the starting job somewhere like Oakland, but the calculation was that spending a year as a back-up for an established coach and stable organization would help rehabilitate Michael’s image. Ultimately, the goal was to boost Vick’s value long term, so he could eventually pay off his creditors and return to profitability.

The tradeoff for this plan of seeking out a solid organization was that the Eagles finagled a second year into Vick’s contract. Now I don’t think he ever really thought this was a big problem. Vick assumed that after a year of rehabilitiation — even if he wasn’t able show much as a player — teams would be clamoring to get him. His calculation was that teams were worried about the bad publicity and not about his actual playing ability.

You can see this attitude at the beginning of the offseason, when Vick was talking about being a starter next year on Feb. 1:

It would be fairly hard [to return to the Eagles as a back-up]. If I had to [come back to the Eagles], I would, just because I’m thankful.”

In other words, Vick really didn’t want to come back to the Eagles. He was ready to move on. Had he really learned anything with Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb? Doubt it. But the bankruptcy plan said it was time for a starting job for the self-stated “Top 10” quarterback.

On March 9th, the Eagles picked up Vick’s $1.5 million roster bonus, and I think Michael was genuinely surprised:

“I think the entire organization knows that I want to be a starter. I’ve reiterated that to Marty [Mornhinweg] at the end of the season and coach [Andy] Reid. They know that. They know I’m a competitor. They know I want to play. They know I want to win.”

Before the Eagles picked up Vick’s bonus, I think Vick already had one leg out the door. He had discussed teams he would like to go to, like the Carolina Panthers, and rode the “I want to be a starter” thing hard.

The problem is Vick really wasn’t helping his own cause. Any team who was looking at Vick as a veteran back-up (and his contract really isn’t expensive for one) must have been scared away by Vick’s insistence for a starting job. And the Eagles must have had a tough time getting the price they wanted for Vick as a starter (which was probably too high in the first place), because Vick was showing how much he wanted to get out of Philly.

By March 12th Vick still doesn’t really get it:

“If I’m in the same situation, I’ll just have to suck it up and go out and play and listen to what Andy [Reid] wants me to do and understand I’m there to play a certain role to try to help the Eagles win a Super Bowl. I can’t be a disgruntled employee, because that’s not who I am.”

Sure, the words are basically right. But listen to the tone. He’s willing to “suck it up” and go do his job. He doesn’t want to have to be “a disgruntled employee.” This doesn’t sound like someone who really wants to stick around.

I think these quotations also just speak to just how bad Vick is at understanding that his situation would be best served by being quiet. It’s like he took a crash course in jail on the T.O. school of negotiation.

A week and a half later Tony Dungy went on Dan Patrick’s show and discussed Vick:

Patrick: It’s been kind of quiet on the Michael Vick front. I thought he’d be with another team by now. What about you?
Dungy: You know, at first I felt the same way — that they [the Eagles] had so much money invested in roster bonuses and that type of thing. But I can kind of see [coach] Andy Reid’s point. You never can have too many quarterbacks and so they have got to make it worthwhile. If they’re going to let anybody go, they have to get what they feel is fair market value. So we’ll see what happens. I talked to Mike a few days ago and he’s very patient. If he ends up being in Philadelphia, he’s going to be fine with that and work as hard as he can.

My interpretation of this is that since Vick’s previous trade demands (which is essentially what those quotes come off as), both the organization and Tony Dungy talked with him and set him sraight. In other words, I don’t read Dungy’s quote here as “Michael is patient and willing to stay.” I read it as “I told Michael he needs to be patient and willing to stay.”

(Also, check out the answer to DP’s next question for Dungy’s take on Andy-McNabb.)

By March 25, Domo had new knowledge about Vick’s situation:

But a source in the organization said [keeping all three quarterbacks] isn’t likely. There is almost no chance Vick will return, the source said.

This is a very interesting report. It’s clearly not a purposeful leak, because (a) it would be in a headline, and (b) it actually goes against the Eagles’ interests by admitting Vick will/has to go.

The Eagles, of course, couldn’t let that slide. They leaked a story to their favorite cub reporter, Jeff McLane:

But a source said the Eagles aren’t likely to cut Vick and in fact, they aren’t shopping the 29-year-old anymore.

You could argue that this was early proof that McNabb was a goner and that Vick was needed to back-up Kevin Kolb. But I think the two things are mostly unrelated. Vick has not once been counted on by the Eagles to be a legit back-up quarterback. Throughout the season Kolb was the primary back-up, and Vick was the wildcat toy. When McNabb went down the Eagles were sure to get Jeff Garcia just in case. Michael Vick was an investment, not a real back-up; and I doubt Andy’s changed his mind on that this offseason.

The coach did call Vick the night of the McNabb trade though and give him some good spin:

“I look at the situation as not being part of God’s plan right now. I think when the opportunity knocks for me to go out and [start] again, then it’ll happen, and I’ll be ready for it. The only thing I can do is prepare myself and make sure I’m ready to play… I know I still have longevity in this league. I have to look at it as a positive. I am preserving my body and continuing to go out and learn and understand the game. That’s the value.”

Even describing the benefits of sticking around, Vick still can’t help but think and talk about starting again. He’s addicted to his own ability.

Domo then comes back and refutes the idea that Vick’s role as Kolb’s back-up is set in stone:

Reid never will admit this, but while he likes Vick as a Wildcat weapon, he doesn’t have a lot of faith in his ability to run his offense if something were to happen to Kevin Kolb this season. The Eagles still are hoping to move Vick, I’m told. But if they can’t, they really can’t afford to go with Kolb, Vick and a rookie project as their three quarterbacks.

Domo really seems to have some small tap on the Eagles organizational thinking and the general feeling at NovaCare — not to mention his theory jives with what we saw during the season. He’s not out there blasting the latest rumor from team sources, and the Eagles front office keeps putting out reports that put him down.

Like this one to Geoff Mosher:

  A team source verified that the Eagles plan to keep Vick for the 2010 season unless another team blows them away with an offer, which isn’t likely to happen.

At least Mosher presents his report with some skepticism, unlike McLane.

The truth is that Michael Vick doesn’t fit into any of the Eagles quarterback plans. Andy likes to have a veteran who is well-versed in his West Coast Offense behind his starter: Koy Detmer, Jeff Garcia, AJ Feeley. Vick can’t provide that security. Which is why we hear that the Eagles have had discussions with Garcia.

Vick also doesn’t address the need for a young, developmental quarterback for the Eagles future back-up. I’ll take a closer look soon at some of the possible quarterbacks the upcoming draft, but overall I think people who are linking the Eagles to Tebow are missing the point. Andy believes he has his “Donovan” for the next decade in Kolb, now he needs to find his new AJ Feeley — not another wildcat toy.

At the end of the day I still think the Eagles will trade Vick at some point this offseason. Andy may have improved his opinion of Vick enough to let him back-up Kolb, but there has been no evidence of that. A trade may not come soon, or even before the draft, since 2011 conditional picks might be in order. But if I were a betting man, I would wager that by September the Eagles quarterback corps goes: (1) Kolb, (2) Garcia, (3) middle-round prospect.