Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Michael Vick: A Story of Redemption

Clint Eastwood would be proud of the Hollywood script that reached its climax last night during Monday Night Football. This needs to become the next "The Blind Side" and let's get that guy Rob Brown from "The Express" to play Michael Vick and Coach Andy Reid to be played by Academy Award winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman. But, we need Hoffman to be the size he was in Along Came Polly for artistic integrity purposes.

I'm still amazed from last night, but I won't say I am shocked. I'm not shocked because Vick was drafted as the quarterback who was going to change the position as we knew it. It just took longer than we expected with major obstacles along the way. Here's a guy who was picked first overall from Virginia Tech and we all knew about his dynamic play-making ability with his legs. We knew he had a cannon even though he wasn't an accurate passer by NFL standards. In Atlanta, he was electrifying. I remember we had a Madden league in high school and students weren't allowed to draft him because it was considered an unfair advantage. Playing for the Falcons he made pro-bowls, was the highest paid player in the league, and graced the cover of Madden. But what did the critics always say? He's not accurate, he thinks to run before he thinks to pass. These were all fair and truthful assessments. Vick was always a dynamic player, but never an efficient quarterback. This is what is so mind-blowing now. Vick game has completely evolved since he was in Atlanta. He now looks to pass first, run second. Look at his eyes when he takes his three or five step drop. Vick's looking for his receivers and if there's nothing there, then he takes off.

His transformation is more remarkable when you look at what his life has been the last few years. Just 18 months ago, Vick was in federal prison for his involvement of the dog-fighting ring. Now what he did was indefensible and disgusting. As a dog owner and animal lover, I can't imagine how someone could hurt an animal. However, he paid his debt to society. He spent 23 months in jail, filing for bankruptcy in the process. All across this country, people get second chances. The crooks on wall street who destroyed families lives for generations get second chances. In some ways, that is what America is about. People get second chances and it's what they do with it that matters. No one will ever forget what Vick did and it will follow him forever.

That's why this is the ultimate redemption tale. Vick could have came back to the league angry and vengeful looking to prove he was the man from day one. That would have been the easy thing to do. Instead, he listened and learned. He learned the trade he thought he mastered in Atlanta. At 30 years old, this guy is maturing before our eyes both on the field and off.  Now he didn't get to this point by himself. It started with Tony Dungy, a superbowl winning coach, mentor, and spiritual guide for Vick. He put his reputation on the line visiting him in prison. Dungy helped shape the new Michael Vick and still talks with him on a weekly basis. And what about Coach Andy Reid.  You have to give Reid credit for risking his reputation and some of the Philadelphia fanbase who didn't want Vick to come to town. That gamble sure has paid off. Last, and most importantly is the former star quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles that Vick "Shellacked" last night. Donovan McNabb has known Michael Vick since he was a senior in high school. McNabb, like his coach, put his reputation at stake and embraced Vick, even pushing for him to be picked up.

Vick played mainly in wildcat formations a few snaps a game last season. He showed flashes of his old self, but not enough to think he could be playing like the MVP of the league as he is right now. And then his teammates last year vote for him to receive the Ed Block Award which is rewarded to role models of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage. What a difference a strong organization and a strong leadership make.

The Eagles organization has been one of the best organizations of the decade. Stable owner and strong coaches is a big reason why Michael Vick has excelled beyond what we all thought was possible. Let's give credit to Coach Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for teaching Vick the quarterback position. They taught it the right way and Vick has absorbed it beautifully. The Eagles offense isn't an easy one to master and Vick is owning it every week he steps onto the field.

Some sports talk show hosts are telling people to calm down. They are saying that it's only one game and to not get carried away. I'm sorry but it's hard not to get excited. What Vick is doing right now is re-defining the quarterback position. I watched the game last night and saw Redskins linebackers and defensive backs literally freeze when Vick dropped back. Is he going to run, pass, or scramble? They didn't know. You can't game plan against him. He's throwing the deep ball with efficiency, but is able to find the short pass and screen pass now as well. He finally trusts his arm along with those explosive feet.

Redzone Recap: Michael Vick drafted number one by Atlanta. He's dynamic, but not efficient as a passer. Dog-fighting ring and goes to jail for 23 months, losing all of his money in the process. He's rehabilitated with the help of mentor Coach Tony Dungy. Philadelphia gives him a chance when he's reinstated and he plays a few snaps, but nothing that impactful. He starts this year as the backup to the supposed future of the Eagles, Kevin Kolb. Kolb gets a concussion halfway through the first game of the season against the Packers after playing sub-par. Vick comes in and almost rallies the team to a comeback win. Vick is now the starter and plays brilliantly, but gets knocked out with a rib injury while rushing for a touchdown against the Redskins in week 4. Kolb comes back and is very solid in Vick's absence. Then, Vick comes back against the Colts and leads them to victory. Finally, last night. Arguably the best quarterback performance in a Monday Night game ever. He was 20/28 for 333 yards, throwing for four touchdowns. He ran for 80 more yards, rushing for two touchdowns. His passer rating was 150.7 and he leads the league with a passer rating of 115 for the season. His completion percentage is 63 percent compared to 54 percent for his career in Atlanta, and don't forget he hasn't thrown a pick yet.  The Eagles are 6-3, tied with the Giants for the NFC East lead and they are facing each other this weekend for sole possession of their division.

Wow. Let's get the popcorn ready.

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