Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Rise and Fall of Michael Vick

As Michael Vick acknowledges his guilt on Federal dog fighting charges, it’s hard to imagine a quarterback with so much talent and skill, would fall from the mountain that took him so long to climb.

He was once a player who excited fans everywhere he went. Now he’s lucky if anybody likes him.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago, Vick was a star player at Virginia Tech. He was a mobile quarterback that was a threat on every offensive play. Vick led the Hokies to the Sugar Bowl in the ‘99 season, only to lose the National Title game to Florida State.

In the 2001 NFL Draft, all the talk was about Michael Vick. He was the biggest storyline going into that year’s draft. It was at that time that San Diego, who owned the top pick, swapped first round picks with the Falcons, who held the fifth slot.

With the first pick, the Falcons chose Vick and the Chargers took a RB out of Texas Christian University, who once ran for over 400 yards in a game, you know him now as LT, LaDainian Tomlinson. What a difference that trade made, what if the trade never happened?

Vick was set to take over the team from an aging quarterback and play under a coach who never won a Super Bowl, despite many tries. It wasn’t too long after the Falcons 14-2 Super Bowl run, give that team a few years and the new guy will lead them to the “Promise Land,” right?

Vick showed some signs during his rookie year, but the Falcons didn’t make the playoffs. The 2002 season would lead to the meteoric rise of Vick. Vick would lead the team to the playoffs for the first time since the Super Bowl season.

The cold, snowy conditions of Lambeau Field would be Vick’s playoff test. Vick shined brighter than the snow that fell on Lambeau Field that night. He gave the Falcons their first playoff victory since 98-99.

A loss to the Eagles, who have a quarterback with similar styles in Donovan McNabb, would end the team’s dream run. The loss didn’t matter, Vick was an instant hit in the NFL. Everybody came down with Vick fever, especially the folks in “Hot-lanta.” Vick would be on the ‘Madden 2004’ cover.

The next season would prove to be the first obstacle in Vick’s career. A knee injury in a preseason game ended most of Vick’s season. He would return that December, but nevertheless, the Falcons missed the playoffs.

The 2004 season brought about changes, new Head Coach Jim Mora, Jr., came to town, along with a new offense for Vick to work with, the West Coast Offense. The questions came up as to whether Vick could be a drop-back passer.

The questions were never really answered, but the Falcons did win the NFC South and would play in the NFC Title game. Once again, the Falcons would lose to the Eagles, ending any hope of making it to their second ever Super Bowl.

The 2005 season was no different than the previous year. The questions kept piling on as to whether or not Vick could be a drop-back passer. The Falcons would miss out on the playoffs.

The 2006 season saw plenty of turmoil. The Falcons once again missed out on the playoffs, Jim Mora was fired from the Falcons and questions were raised as to whether or not Vick should be the Falcons quarterback.

After one game last season, Vick, out of frustration, flipped off the Atlanta fans. He would be fined for those actions.

This offseason has been the worst yet for Vick. First was the water bottle compartment incident, in January.

Then came the dog fighting allegations in April. Then the indictment, last month. Now today, the world hears about Vick pleading guilty.

There is a sense of betrayal when it comes to Vick and the dog fighting scandal. For six years, the city of Atlanta has had a love affair with Vick. He was considered to be the guy to make the Falcons relevant in Atlanta.

Not only was he exciting in Atlanta, but he was exciting everywhere else. Fans paid lots of money to go and see the phenomenon that was Michael Vick.

Vick not only betrayed the fans, but he betrayed the one man who gave him what he needed, Falcons owner, Arthur Blank.

Blank has always been enamored by Vick and has always acknowledged him to be the guy the team would be built around. Who could forget Blank wheeling around an injured Vick during the 2003 regular season.

Blank gave a long-term contract to Vick, making him one of the richest players in all the game. Is this how Vick thanks his owner, his team and most importantly, his fans?

The justice system will determine how long Vick goes to jail. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine how long Vick stays out of the game. The same game we watched him play at Virginia Tech.

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