What a long, strange trip it’s been for Vick

The Philadelphia InquirerJanuary 7, 2014 

PHILADELPHIA — Michael Vick spent a good bit of his Monday morning cleaning out his locker at the NovaCare Center, filling a large gray garbage bag with personal items, autographing gloves and sneakers so they could be donated to charity.

The whole process had an air of finality that even Vick himself couldn’t help but recognize. He is a free agent. He wants to be an NFL starting quarterback again.

That will not happen in Philadelphia after Eagles coach Chip Kelly said on Monday the team’s roster will be put together during the offseason with Nick Foles in the position of starting quarterback.

Vick seemed to know it was the end, too.

“It’s hard to sum up my time here,” he said. “Everything has been so surreal and happened so abruptly.”

He is right on both counts, and because of how and why Vick became an Eagle, his five years with the Eagles have to be evaluated on two levels: Vick as person and Vick as quarterback.

Remember: He arrived in August 2009 as the guinea pig in Jeffrey Lurie and Andy Reid’s attempt to weave the cause of social progress into their plan for winning football games. After Vick had served 18 months in prison on dogfighting charges, Lurie and Reid signed him for the dual purpose of chasing a Super Bowl and saving his soul.

This was a risky proposition from the start. A pro sports franchise’s first mission always should be to do all it can within its league’s rules to win a championship, and the Eagles ostensibly had put that priority aside for the sake of rehabilitating Vick. They invited criticism from those who believed Vick’s crimes too heinous to warrant a second chance in the NFL, and there was no predicting how he would act, whether prison had truly changed him for the better.

In hindsight, it apparently did. He generally carried himself with maturity and graciousness, carried out his community-service obligations, and never embarrassed the franchise off the field.

“He has been a joy to have,” Lurie said. “He has represented the team always with class.”

On that level, the Eagles were successful. It was in their effort to rebuild Vick as a quarterback that he and they came up short.

That Vick improved in the fundamentals of the position under Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is beyond dispute. And after he took over for Kevin Kolb as the team’s starter in 2010, Vick did more than win the Eagles the NFC East that season. It persuaded the team to sign him to a $100 million contract, and it provided a glimpse of the player he might have been earlier in his career.

But that glimpse was as good as it got for him in Philly. Over the next three years, his record as a starter was 12-17. His turnover-prone play and his inability to avoid injury contributed to those disastrous 2011 and 2012 Eagles seasons. And yes, his career as an Eagle did end abruptly, with that hamstring injury in October against the Giants, for it gave Foles the opportunity to show that Chip Kelly’s offense could be more dynamic without a “mobile quarterback” as it had been with Vick.

As teammate LeSean McCoy approached him, McCoy said, “Yo, don’t pack your (stuff). You ain’t going nowhere.”

But Michael Vick knew the truth, and he kept filling his gray garbage bag.

MICHAEL VICK’S TIME WITH EAGLES WINDING DOWN

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