From Prison to Playoffs: Vick Still Admirable After Loss

    I love Vick’s turnaround. The increase in his work ethic, his poise on and off the field, and his obvious commitment to righting his wrong makes him, in my opinion, the best quarterback in the game today.

    We all know the story of the dog fighting and the torture. Vick was a rising NFL star who played well on some days and didn’t show up on others. He didn’t seem to have the smarts to be one of the best, but had occasional moments of greatness all the same. This was all overshadowed by his trial, during which he was made the exemplar of the deadly, dangerous sport.

    PETA needed Vick to be the fall man to bring attention to the evils of dog fighting, but maybe PETA’s goals  attack benefitted Vick more than anyone could ever have guessed.

    I thought his career would be over. Two years in prison plus huge debts to numerous creditors is not the formula for a successful comeback. Add horrible public opinion of the guy, and virtually no team or general manager would want to take a chance on him.

    Even when he was given a chance, I assumed it was going to be ugly. I thought Vick would split time, playing on a schedule like Vince Young’s — on a few plays, off a few plays, leading to obscurity as a quarterback with the athleticism to wow in college, but lacking the key skills needed to make his mark on the NFL.

    But when this season rolled around, Vick wasn’t just playing football; he was dominating football.

    With a stumble against the cheeseheads in Week 1, early victories came against Jacksonville and Detroit. It appeared the explosive offense and special teams of the Eagles were going to make me look stupid.

    And really, they have.

    Even with some lackluster performances and kinks that had to be worked out through the season, the team came back strong and kicked the living daylights out of any team it chose. The Eagles had their downturns, but so does every team in the NFL. Injuries and off-days happen, and overall, the Eagles demonstrated their ability to go out and make the big plays when it counted.

    DeSean Jackson running a 90-plus yarder for a touchdown on a broken ankle is one such example. The best was probably when the team scored 28 points in the waning eight minutes to beat a solid Giants team.

    Vick was the heart of these games, and — rather than trying to force passes, leading to incompletions and picks — he brilliantly worked inside the offense, running, passing and handing off. He became the real deal. Rather than being all talk and swagger and playing when he feels like it, Vick now plays every down like he’s playing for his job, playing to win and playing his best at all times.

    Before his imprisonment, Vick was outspoken and rash both on the field and off, leading me to believe he was unintelligent. Now, he doesn’t talk as much trash, and seems to respect his team and what they’re doing. (Either that, or he’s learned to keep his mouth shut, which is wisdom in and of itself.)

    Yesterday, the Eagles played the Green Bay Packers. I’ve read several columns portraying Rodgers as a better quarterback, and the defense of the Eagles as floundering, but the way they had been playing reminds me more of the Saints of last year and the Chargers when they actually show up to a game. They have the offense and special teams to run up the score at any time, combined with a defense that makes key stops and doesn’t let the opposing offense have the big plays.

    This wasn’t the case Sunday, as they fell to the Packers for the second time this season in a heartbreaking (for me) loss in the first round of playoffs. Vick played well, but couldn’t come through in the clutch as he threw an interception that sealed the Packers’ win.

    I thought the Packers were going to get rocked on Sunday. From there, the Eagles should have beaten the Bears because — come on — when have the Bears ever really had a shot at anything? So I thought their third playoff game was going to be against the Saints, who, although fighting for their return to the ultimate bowl, are lackluster and in poor form this year. I was more right than I thought as the Saints fell early to the Seahawks, who are going to lose to Atlanta. So, the games lined up for Philly looked like smooth sailing to the big game.

    Since old man Manning is out of the picture, the only tough game is at the Super Bowl against the pretty boy and his Patriots, and no one wants them to win anyway. They’re like the blue-blooded, cold team everyone knows is probably going to win but also hopes doesn’t, and this year, they have a good chance of losing.

    So far, I was wrong about the Eagles, but look for them in the future as Vick and his boys come back next year as real contenders. Now I have to change my pick to the cold-blooded Pats, even though I would really like Atlanta to hand them an upset at Super Bowl XLV.


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