Saturday, August 15, 2009

Attention Philadelphia: Hide All Dogs

Thursday, I was at the Linc as news of the Eagles’ signing of Michael Vick began to percolate through the building. I have always been struck at how fast news and the resultant organized response flies around the ring concourse. At halftime, bands of fans were loitering on the concourse singing “Who Let The Dogs Out”- which will only migrate inside to the seats. Thirty thousand fans blurting out the Baha Men hit will only serve as another black eye for denizens of the 200 level.

I’m not going to rehash the obvious facts involving Vick. If you were going to bring him in anywhere, Philadelphia is as good a place as any football-wise: established quarterback, safe head coach, minimal financial commitment. Vick is going to earn a relative pittance- and will in no way push for serious playing time. However, I would make two points.

First, don’t underestimate the locker room. I’m not sure any NFL player wants to get involved in parsing shades of dog fighting- defining where exactly they come down on the spectrum of heinous to stupid. But like any peer collective, Vick probably gets more leeway from the players' union than the media. So Dungy and McNabb strike me as authentic here. Second, there is no way the Eagles do this without the blessing from the “official” NFL: the commissioner and owners. I’m not saying there is a quid pro quo here- but someone had to eat this, and I am sure the NFL was eager to see this get resolved, and get resolved in one of the League’s more sane organizations.

That being said I’m not sure I’d have done it. I've never been a Vick fan as a player either- see this missive entitled "Why I Don't Like Vick" from 2006). Consequently, the on-field rewards seem real minimal to me- a few snaps per game, a couple of stunt plays. I know the Eagles culturally are into roster risks with upside (there is always some Australian footballer loitering around), but this is a whole new level.

The problems with Vick returning to the NFL are myriad- but one understated issue, and perhaps ultimate, is that the guy was just not that good. His last season, he made 16 starts and completed a shade over 200 balls. And let’s face it- most of the throws he is asked to make are not “aggressive”. That is 12 a game? That is horrible. He had six games where he completed ten or fewer balls

Can you point to another 30 year old quarterback who completed twelve of fewer balls in half his starts that was anything but a real marginal roster candidate? I can’t. I’m not sure he’d be on anyone’s radar as a serous contributor if, say, he had missed the season for some benign injury.

He can’t contribute immediately to a team with many pieces missing only a quarterback. I’m not excited about putting up with him and his issues for a real marginal back-up; I can find other guys who can bounce half their throws that don’t generate a zillion protestors. And there is opportunity cost here. Frankly, there are other guys with better pedigrees as rehab projects or specialty contibutors.

As Bob Ryan pointed out on PTI yesterday, this isn’t Vick’s second chance. It is more like his tenth or something. He is a seven year vet- but I don’t want him mentoring my young players (let alone being physically around children, women, pets, alcohol, fans). I’d rather give that roster spot, development time and $1.6M to a prospect with perhaps less upside but none of the cancers.

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