In the movie script that has become Michael Vick’s existence, there is still room for any kind of ending.
A lot of folks are calling Vick’s shiny new contract that puts him among the NFL’s highest-paid players, proof of redemption. Not so fast, Pollyanna.
Yes, Vick has passed all the tests to this point. He’s taken good advantage of his second chance at life and at football. For the most part, he has said and done all the right things. It is a good sign that even the skeptics within the Philadelphia Eagles organization have been convinced of his sincerity because those are the people who have grown to know him best over the past two years.
Now the Eagles have made him the face of the franchise and that’s just fine by Andy Reid, the head coach who was the driving force behind bringing Vick to Philadelphia in the first place.
Reid’s two sons have each done hard time on drug-related convictions. He understands what prison time can do to a person.
“I talked to Michael, and I tried to be as specific as I could,” Reid told ESPN The Magazine, in an article in its Sept. 5 edition.
“Going to visit my sons in prison, I learned that those guys go through three phases when they’re incarcerated. They think: ‘It’s everybody else’s fault.’ Then they admit: ‘It’s my fault.’ The most important phase, if they get there, is: ‘It’s my fault, and I will do absolutely everything I possibly can not to come back here.’ I came out of the conversation with Michael feeling that he had reached that level.”
But what he does from now on may be the biggest test of all.
Before anyone knew Vick as a dog-killer and convicted felon, they knew him as a gifted athlete who didn’t work too hard at his craft. He’s been at this place before, when the Falcons signed him to a 10-year, $130-million US contract and, within two years, he had essentially lost it all.
At the time of his incarceration for running a dog-fighting ring, Vick declared personal bankruptcy. He still owes nearly $20 million and, with the signing of his new contract, the bankruptcy trustee expects that to be paid off by 2014.
Now, he is once again on top of the football world. As this NFL season unfolds, starting this week, no player in the league will be under as much scrutiny as Vick. The Eagles have essentially put the future of the franchise in his hands.
At times last year, Vick was Superman. He dominated with his arm and legs and made Reid’s game plans look like inspired genius. The breathtaking fourth-quarter comeback he engineered against the Giants late in the 2010 season was right out of a video game.
But then, at the end, he failed to beat the down-and-out Vikings in a game that would have given Philadelphia a first-round playoff bye. Worse, the Eagles lost at home 21-16 to Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs. With the Eagles driving in the final minute, Vick threw a panicky interception that ended their season.
Did the Eagles jump the gun on this signing? Should they have waited at least through the first half of this season to make the commitment? As a playoff quarterback, Vick is 2-3. Now he is in the same financial league as a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning but without the proven results.
The Eagles have put their money where their hopes are.
They believe in Vick as a player and as a person. Vick is absolutely capable of delivering the Super Bowl that will justify the financial commitment they’ve made, though you have to be nervous that he’ll be passing and running behind a questionable offensive line that had trouble keeping him upright last year.
And let’s be clear about the dollars they’ve committed. They’re not all in for $100 million and six seasons. What the guts of the deal amounts to is more along the lines of three years and $48 million and not all of that money is guaranteed. The guaranteed portion is about $35.5 million, according to NBC Sports. The fourth and fifth years are worth $15.5 million and $16.5 million, respectively, but at the Eagles option. The sixth year is voided if Vick takes 35% of the snaps in any other season.
So, while $100 million has a nice ring to it, he will make, and the Eagles will pay, considerably less than that in the final analysis. Still, it’s large enough for Vick to be out from under the weight of his creditors but he’s exchanged that responsibility for the pressure of winning and, in a football-crazed city such as Philadelphia, that could be even more onerous.