When Michael Vick would see visitors during his two-year exile from football -- either in federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., or, more recently, while in home confinement in Virginia -- one refrain was clear:
He had deep regrets over not working hard enough at the quarterback craft during his six-year NFL career, and if he ever got another chance to play in the NFL, he'd work hard to be a good all-around quarterback, not just an electric one. And when he began considering where he might want to play, two other factors came into play. Vick wanted to play in a stable environment with smart coaches teaching a scheme that was successful in today's football. And he didn't care about playing time, at least not immediately. Getting back into a locker room with a solid core of players was more important. Hmmm. Stability. Erasing his past. Smart offensive scheme. Unconcerned about playing time.
That's why the signing of Vick by the Eagles Thursday night makes more sense than Vick to almost anywhere else. Coach Andy Reid has averaged 10.7 wins a year in his 10 seasons atop the Eagles. He and his offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg (entering his seventh year in Philly), both were schooled in the modified West Coast offense by Mike Holmgren in Green Bay in the nineties. The unknown quarterback coach, James Urban, is a bookish 35-year-old who coached at Penn before coming to the Eagles. And Vick is sure to be coached as well by one of Brett Favre's good friends, a longtime West Coast backup, Doug Pederson, who is in his first year as the Eagles' offensive quality-control coach. I expect Pederson will become very, very close to Vick now, reinforcing and teaching the things that will make his head swim with a new language in quarterback meetings. Reid and Mornhinweg will be Vick's main men, and both are solid rocks. A couple of weeks ago, I sat with Reid and told him I thought the reason he'd been able to last in a tough town like Philadelphia for a decade is that, essentially, he didn't give a crap about most of the things the media, the fans and lots of his players gave a crap about. He started chuckling, and he said he'd just been talking about that earlier in the week. But it's true -- and it's a good trait to have with Vick entering the Eagles' complex this weekend to begin his second career. If there are dog-lovers protesting Vick's signing because of his heinous dog-fighting history and convictions (and there are bound to be some), they'll roll off Reid. He simply won't care.
This is a great segue to Vick's second career. What I'd be a concerned about is the effect the signing will have on Donovan McNabb. There are those around the Eagles who think that -- despite McNabb kissing and making up with Reid and the organization after his ugly benching last November for poor play -- the incumbent really doesn't trust Reid. Despite what he'll say publicly, and he'll say all the right things, McNabb may begin to think deep down that Reid is trying to replace him again. He had some of those same thoughts when the Eagle picked quarterback Kevin Kolb in the second round of the 2007 draft. As far as Vick's future, it's incredibly cloudy. The Eagles likely will use him in some sort of Wildcat mode early, and maybe as a runner or receiver. But mostly, he'll be learning and studying early, in the best place he could have found to be a football player first and second, and a sideshow third.