Another chance with Eagles for changed Michael Vick
By the time Chip Kelly got around to naming Michael Vick his starting quarterback Tuesday, it had become the most logical conclusion to the Eagles' competition for the game's most important position.
Rewind the clock to the summer of 2009, however, and the idea of this happening in 2013 was as unlikely as Donovan McNabb having hors d'oeuvres and dinner with Mike and Kyle Shanahan.
"I might have thought it was possible, but I don't think I would have said it was probable," said Joe Banner, the former Eagles team president who now holds the title of chief executive officer with the Cleveland Browns.
Vick admitted he didn't foresee a long-term future in Philadelphia at the time of his highly controversial arrival in 2009.
"I could have never imagined it," he said after practice Thursday at the NovaCare Complex. "I thought I was going to be here for a year and then go somewhere else."
Banner said the Eagles never considered Vick's 2009 signing a sociological experiment, but former coach Andy Reid made it clear that his own motivation for the move went beyond football on that August night when Philadelphia became the shocking landing spot for the convicted felon.
"I've seen people close to me who have had second chances and taken advantage of those," Reid said. "It's very important that people give them opportunities to prove that they can change, so we're doing that with Michael."
Reid's impetus for giving Vick another chance was the drug addiction that consumed the lives of his two eldest sons, Garrett and Britt. Garrett, the older of the two, never recovered and died last summer from a drug overdose in a Lehigh University dorm room. Britt has had a more favorable outcome and is working on his father's coaching staff in Kansas City.
With Kelly's decision Tuesday, another chapter of Vick's fascinating football career will open Sept. 9, when the Eagles play the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Highly entertaining but ultimately unfulfilling would best describe the quarterback's career body of work to date.
Thanks to the tutelage of Reid and former Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Vick has become a better passing quarterback here than he ever was in Atlanta. Whether Kelly's fast-paced system will allow Vick to elevate his game some more remains to be seen.
What can be said with absolute certainty is that Vick has made the most of the second chance he was given in life, and by the Eagles.
"I was happy for him," Banner said when asked about the news that Vick had won the Eagles' quarterback competition. "The time I was there, I really believed Michael had taken his life to a very positive place. He had become a family man with a good work ethic. He knew he had made mistakes, and he wanted to do the right thing going forward."
Given Vick's rap sheet and his rap before he landed in prison, there were plenty of reasons to be skeptical about how his stay in Philadelphia would turn out. He was convicted of dogfighting charges in Virginia and sentenced to 23 months in prison in December 2007. That despicable activity will be attached to him for the rest of his life.
But the list of reasons to question whether he'd ever become a decent human being was much longer than that. To name just a few: the "Ron Mexico" story in 2005, the (middle-) finger pointing at the Georgia Dome fans in 2006, and an infamous interview before his last game with the Falcons in 2006 when he admitted getting back to Atlanta before midnight after a New Year's Eve game at Lincoln Financial Field was a priority.
It's impossible to entirely say what's inside a man, but Vick's public face since he joined the Eagles has been that of a changed person. No, he hasn't been perfect by any means, but no man is. His younger brother Marcus remains a controversial figure, but Michael Vick is not responsible for the behavior of his sibling.
Vick's competitiveness has led him to say the wrong things a few times, including at the end of the Eagles' offseason workouts when he wanted Kelly to name the starting quarterback. But the Michael Vick who will play opening night against the Redskins is a far better person than the guy who was sent to prison nearly six years ago.
"When I first arrived here four years ago, I was just trying to get acclimated back into football society and to society itself," Vick said. "My focus was football, but not entirely football at the time. Coach Reid told me the main focus over the next five months of the season was to just get myself back in a position where I could have a clear head. That's what I focused on.
"Now, I feel like over the years and being around Andy and Marty and what this organization represents and how you have to represent yourself, that all helped me to mature into the man I am today. I arrived here at 29 years old and fresh out of prison. Now I'm 33 with a family and playing for a new head coach and a great organization, and this team is leaning on me, and I'm leaning on them."
Kelly said he didn't know much about Michael Vick the player, or the person, when he took the job as Eagles head coach.
Here's what Kelly knows now: "What I've learned about him is how passionate he is about the game. He has not missed a day. I asked [the strength and conditioning coaches] the other day from top to bottom if you can rank our guys, and [Vick] was No. 1 in terms of attitude, work ethic, helping other players, everything in terms of the weight room."
Vick has become a leader worth following rather than a follower headed down a path of personal destruction. He has at least one more chance to prove he's the right quarterback for the Eagles, and that's a fortunate circumstance. He is even more fortunate that he has the rest of his life to show the world what kind of person he has become.
Contact Bob Brookover at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @brookob.