The single greatest sports story of this year is one that has been building for a couple of years now. It was no guarantee that it would ever see the light of day, and the list of doubters and nay-sayers trumps anything LeBron James could even begin to handle and is almost as long as Tiger Woods black book. There was so much uncertainty and so many obstacles in his way, but Michael Vick has turned from villain back to hero at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles and you can’t help but feel happy for the guy.
Before he became Hitler in the eyes of PETA and animal lovers alike, he had a ways to go to being considered a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. In his last season with the Falcons he posted career highs in passing touchdowns (20) and rushing yards (1,039) and also matched his career high with 13 interceptions. Many had critiqued Vick’s accuracy and said he would never be anything more than a running quarterback (although he only managed two rushing touchdowns that season). His passer rating career high was set in his sophomore campaign (81.6) and he also had his highest passing total with 2,936 yards that same season.
Reality is, Vick never had any quality receivers during his time in Atlanta. The quarterback – who was one time the only quarterback to have defeated Brett Favre at Lambeau in the playoffs – was blessed with the Brian Finneran’s, Joe Horn’s and Peerless Price’s of the NFL. His best and most reliable target during the first stop of his career was tight end Alge Crumpler.
In Philadelphia, Vick has blossomed behind the teachings of perennial winners Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. Vick’s time in prison seemed to humble him and allowed him to check his own attitude, enabling him to be more of a listener during his first season on the bench for the Eagles. Vick wasn’t even heir apparent to the throne when Reid moved McNabb – in the division – this past off season; Kevin Kolb was supposed to be making a name for himself this year. Instead, he went down week one and Vick has excelled in the NFC East ever since he got the opportunity.
With DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, and LeSean McCoy for weapons on offense, Vick seems to be an unstoppable force. Not only is he still a threat to run for a big gain, but he also has developed the ability to go through his reads and progressions while trusting his third, fourth, and fifth options.
Through the six games that he has played, Vick has posted career highs in yards per game (225), yards per attempt (8.8), passer rating (115.1), and completion percentage (62.7). He has only fumbled twice and both were recovered by the Eagles, meaning Vick has accounted for ZERO turnovers this season. He has tossed 11 touchdowns and rushed for four more.
His redefining moment was the very first play from scrimmage on Monday night’s blowout. The play-action bomb to a jogging DeSean Jackson that put the game immediately out of reach showed his maturity and growth as a quarterback, all in mere moments. Vick has always played well on the big stage, but with all of the country watching, on the road, in the rain, Vick lofted a perfect pass 88-yards into a striding Jackson’s arms and watched as his receiver back pedaled into the end zone.
From there, things only got easier. It seemed as if Vick was back to his Madden 2004 cover days, donning yet another NFC bird on the side of his helmet, making defenders look like they were running in quicksand with cement blocks around their cleats. His 333 passing yards with four passing touchdowns shows exactly where Vick is at in his career. Not only has he made himself a lock for Comeback Player of the Year but he is also hanging with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for the coveted NFL MVP award.
If Vick leads the Eagles to the NFC East crown and a playoff birth, he should undoubtedly be the MVP even though he will not have played a full seasons worth of games. Not only is he going to cash in this off season no matter who he signs with but he is also going to be a guaranteed starter there, something he hasn’t been promised since the 2006-07 season in Atlanta. No matter where he chooses to play, he is going to be must see television, the same old Vick we were spoiled with when he first broke into the league and it may play an influence during off season negotiations between the league and the players association.
This has been the most watched season in NFL history (the top ten most watched television events during the fall season have all been football games) and Vick has been the most electrifying player to watch. Even though he was universally known as a hardened criminal for the past three years he has proven America to be what we though it was: a land of forgiveness. If you can prove you are truly sorry for your “transgressions” you will have the opportunity for redemption. Some said that his image was irreparable and that he would never play quarterback again in this league. Now, he is being praised as perhaps the leagues best overall player, not just quarterback, and he deserves it more than anyone. I just hope Tiger Woods has been taking notes on how to make a gracious return to glory. The media isn’t always your enemy, sometimes its just best to play by their rules.
Sportscenter has regained its premier asset during their fall broadcasts and the human highlight reel has returned to his rightful place, under center on the gridiron.
Welcome back, Michael.