PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick has gone from federal prison to Andy Reid's witness protection program.
Once advertised by Reid as an explosive addition to the offense, Vick has all but disappeared from the Eagles' game plan. Consider: In Sunday's embarrassing upset loss at Oakland, in which the Eagles could not solve the Raiders' blitz, Reid had no plan in place to use Vick even as an antidote.
Instead, Vick made only two anemic appearances, both in the first half. On a running play, he lost four yards. On another play, he was nothing more than a decoy.
No matter how you carve it up, Vick's usefulness to this team has been far greater off the field than on it. He has been a genuine advocate for animal rights, speaking with local schoolchildren and with young men involved in dogfighting. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie recently pledged $500,000 to local animal-rights groups in a program called TAWK (Treating Animals with Kindness).
In addition to Vick's $1.6 million salary, Lurie has now made an investment of more than $2 million in Vick. And the organization has asked the Philadelphia community to invest an enormous amount of emotion and suspend its opposition to Vick's previous abhorrent behavior to give him a second chance and the Eagles another dynamic player on offense.
The second part of that bargain just has not materialized. Here are Vick's numbers: six rushes for 13 yards, an average of only 2.2 yards a carry. Longest run: 11 yards. Vick has thrown the football five times, completing one pass for one yard.
In all, since he was conditionally reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell five weeks ago, Vick has been incorporated in only 18 plays in three games. Those plays have generated a paltry 30 yards of total offense, or 1.67 yards per play.
On Monday, Reid was asked about Vick's role. "We signed him as a backup quarterback," Reid said. "We've probably gotten a little bit more out of him than we thought we would get from other backup quarterbacks."
Of course, that was not the case initially. When Vick came to town, Reid said he envisioned an entire offensive package with Vick running Reid's version of the Wildcat formation, called the "Spread Eagle." But with all the fluctuations and injuries on the Eagles' offensive line, not to mention Donovan McNabb's initial resistance, sustaining the Wildcat as a viable option has not worked.
Vick has not been shy about his distaste for the Wildcat. "I like to drop back and throw the football," Vick said, perhaps realizing that he can hope to get another big NFL contract only as a conventional quarterback.
And then there is the second part of what Reid said -- that Vick has provided more production than the team's other backups. That's not true, either. When McNabb was injured on opening day against the Panthers, backup quarterback Kevin Kolb took the helm. The following two weeks, Kolb put together back-to-back games in which he threw for more than 300 yards -- the first quarterback in NFL history to do that in his first two starts.
Indeed, Kolb's outstanding relief appearances have generated widespread speculation that the Eagles will not bring back Vick in 2010. Paul Domowitch, the longtime, respected pro football writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, recently suggested that there was little chance the Eagles would keep Vick as a backup next season, especially if they have to pay him $5.6 million, which is what his deal stipulates.
"Unless something drastic happens, like, say, both Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb get abducted by aliens, they have no intention of exercising that option," Domowitch wrote. "And that's the way Vick wants it."
Initially, when he left prison in July and was petitioning Goodell for a return to the league in August, Vick thought that the transition would be a lot easier, that he would have come into the league as a starting quarterback.
But league sources say no other teams were seriously interested in Vick. His agent, Joel Segal, had brief conversations with other teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals. But other than the Eagles, nothing serious developed.
So Vick had little choice but to take the Eagles' deal -- even though it meant he would be playing behind a Pro Bowl-caliber starter and behind Kolb, whom the Eagles had been developing as the franchise quarterback in waiting.
What do the Eagles do next with Vick? Some have suggested that, after the season is over, he will fetch at least a second-round pick in a trade. That may be wishful thinking, considering that the Eagles are hardly using him, and he's not getting nearly enough playing time to redevelop his skills.
Vick recently suggested that he knows his future is somewhere else.
"My time will come in the future," he recently told beat reporters standing at his locker. "I'm still a young guy. I've got the fortitude to do what's right, and hopefully, I get another opportunity in this league."
Sal Paolantonio, who covers the NFL for ESPN, is the author of "How Football Explains America" (Triumph Books).