GQ Magazine just posted their lengthy interview with Michael Vick this morning, and it contains a number of quotes from the Eagles QB about his dogfighting past that are certain to rankle animal lovers who swear to never forgive him. But that wasn't what grabbed my attention about the article, What really stood out was the following passage:
"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth," Vick tells me a few weeks after the commencement ceremony. "I didn't want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options." Those two teams wanted him and would've allowed him to start, but after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other reps from the NFL, Vick was convinced—and granted league approval—to sign with Philly. "And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation."
I wanted a bit of clarity on this passage, so I asked Will Leitch, who interviewed Vick and wrote the piece, if the above paragraph meant that the NFL essentially funneled Vick away from Buffalo and Cincy and compelled him to sign with the Eagles. On the record, Leitch said, "GQ (and I) can only stand behind what's printed in the piece."
Now, there's little doubt that the Eagles turned out to be, by far, the best choice for Michael Vick. Coming to Philly meant that Vick got to play for a well-run organization under a solid coaching staff with good players surrounding him. More important, going to Philly gave Vick an entire year riding the bench, a year in which most NFL fans got used to the idea of seeing Vick in an NFL uniform again, before he went out and actually started a game. It gave the QB a full year for the outrage to die down.
I have little doubt that if Vick had gone to either the Bills or Bengals and started for them right away, he wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful as he was last year. Those are poorly run, losing organizations. Vick would have gotten his wish and started right away, but would have suffered greatly in the long term.
That said, the idea that the NFL hand-picked the Eagles to be Vick's team is MESSED UP. Extremely messed up. The idea that the league has its little portfolio of Golden Teams - Eagles, Patriots, Giants, etc. - should anger every fan. You can draw a straight line from the league steering Vick to a team to the league forcing the Saints to play a "home game" at Giants Stadium after Katrina. If I were a Bills or Bengals fan right now, I'd be livid. LIVID. I'd find Roger Goodell and give him a Charley horse.
I understand that Vick, at the time of his release, represented an extraordinary circumstance for the league. But if they tapped the Eagles as Vick's only option, then it hurts the image of fairness and balance the league has tried so hard to cultivate. Was Plaxico Burress really "free" to sign with any team he liked? Or did the Jets, who play in the #1 media market, just happen to be the Ginger Hammer's favorite team for him? Sinister machinations like this should be the domain of David Stern and no one else. Vick ended up in the right spot, and everyone's happy. But just because everything worked out thanks to the league's backroom dealing doesn't make it right.
UPDATE: Vick has issued the following statement:
"I felt it was necessary to put out a statement today clarifying the article in GQ Magazine. I did speak with many people, but the decision to sign in Philadelphia was based on my discussions with my agent, my family and with Coach Reid. And after those discussions, it became clear to me that this was the place I wanted to play and resume my NFL career. The Commissioner never told me to sign or not sign with particular teams. Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that this was a decision I made and, as I have said numerous times before, I’m very happy with the way it has worked out for me and my family."