Image, bank account are revived
On field, too much missing
When Michael Vick was released from prison in 2009, his NFL career was dead in the water. People were talking about whether he might have to head north, to the Canadian Football League, to play professionally again.
Too few NFL general managers could take the risk of signing a quarterback who had been convicted of felony charges related to dogfighting. Probably of more concern to those GMs, though, was the fact that Vick had been out of the game for two full seasons, and therefore was unable to properly train. Signing Vick was a gamble -- on multiple fronts.
Oh, and one more thing: Vick was bankrupt.
So, fast-forward to 2014. Vick has played the past five NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, and on Aug. 29, 2011, they signed him to a five-year, $100 million contract, of which $40 million was guaranteed. This season, he is with the New York Jets, competing for the starting quarterback gig.
If we're looking at football as a business, then Vick's "second" NFL career has been pretty darn successful.
Perhaps more than the money, what has made Vick's "second" career successful is the rehabilitation of his image. Obviously, not everyone is going to forgive his earlier mistakes, but the 33-year-old has stayed in the public consciousness and, at least in the minds of many, has shifted the narrative of what kind of person he is.
He's no longer the entitled athlete who thought he was above the law and made many horrible decisions. He's now the mature, veteran teammate who has worked to overcome earlier mistakes.
That sounds like five seasons well-spent.
By the measure of resilience, Michael Vick's return to football after serving time on charges related to dogfighting has been a success. In human terms, that's nothing to downplay. But in football terms, there is more to accomplish.
Vick, a revolutionary quarterback and a black man in a role once reserved for white players, could have used the second half of his career to revive his Hall of Fame chances. He had that much potential -- for Super Bowls and dynasties and performance bonuses -- after being drafted by the Falcons in 2001. Instead, he heads into 2014 as a potential Jets backup to a mediocre sophomore Geno Smith, trying to push back against whispers that he'll never be healthy for a full season, that he can't run anymore, that his best days were lost and his potential burned by bad decisions, prison, bankruptcy and a slow-as-molasses turn from his old life to a new one.
Since his return to football in 2009 after a two-year, self-inflicted break, Vick has not played a full season. The closest he came was 2011, when he played in 13 games. The Eagles made the playoffs in two of Vick's seasons but lost in their first postseason game both times. Last season, he played in seven games and lost his starting job to Nick Foles.
That's not exactly a rousing success.
He still has time. The Jets have struggled to find a franchise quarterback, with Mark Sanchez offering brief hope before being overtaken by interceptions and butt-related turnovers. This team offers Vick a shot at a starting job and another chance to edit the second half of his career with more success.
But from a pure X's and O's perspective, if Vick's career ended tomorrow, the second half would be a study in lost opportunity.