It had to be a team with a strong owner. A strong organization. A strong head coach. A passionate fan base. And, yes, an established, stable quarterback.
That was a strategy that was thoughtfully formed by Vick's agent, Joel Segal, and certainly endorsed by coach-turned-mentor Tony Dungy, commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.
Oh, and Vick himself.
The Philadelphia Eagles were a fit -- and, yes, there were other teams interested in Vick.
Strong owner? Jeff Lurie. Strong organization? From top to bottom, the Eagles are a model of excellence. Strong head coach? Andy Reid can't be shaken. Passionate fan base? Well, Eagles fans are passionate, win or lose. Established quarterback? Donovan McNabb.
The latter criteria is most compelling of all. As McNabb revealed after Thursday night's preseason opener against the Patriots, he lobbied the Eagles to sign Vick. That's stability. McNabb is established as a starter and one of the NFL's best quarterbacks since he was drafted by the Eagles 11 years ago. Fear of pressure from Eagles' fans? McNabb was booed when he was drafted and he's been booed many times since -- and cheered.
Vick understands that he isn't ready to be thrown into a starting role at quarterback, several sources have said. He is just now getting reacclimated to society and to an accountable family life, as Dungy has mentored. And nobody -- not even Vick -- really knows when he'll be in true football shape and what skills he has retained after a two-year layoff.
Reid and his coaching staff clearly believe Vick has something to offer, as a quarterback and an athlete.
Lurie, Reid and team president Joe Banner are clearly leaning on the word of Dungy and Goodell. Even though a training camp visit to the Eagles recently left an impression they weren't in the Vick chase, just review exactly what Reid said when he was specifically asked about the team's interest in Vick:
"The thing I'll tell you is I'm happy with the quarterback situation here," Reid said. "I know Kevin Kolb is banged up here, but I do believe this kid [Vick] deserves a second chance. There is no better man to have in your corner than Tony Dungy, and Commissioner Goodell has stood up on the table for the kid. So I'm sure there are some things that happened there that built that trust in him, but he's got some great people there and I'm pulling for him."
Goodell himself stood up when he was interviewed Saturday by ESPN. Asked if he would give his blessing to a general manager and coach to sign Vick, the commissioner said yes, from a football level and public relations standpoint.
Finally, the $1.6 million that the Eagles gave Vick for 2009 will be paid on a prorated scale based on his availability for a 16-game season. Don't be surprised if Goodell reinstates Vick earlier than Week 6, maybe even by Week 3.
And that $1.6 million? It should satisfy Vick's bankruptcy judge. So no minimum wage deal in the NFL, as many expected, but a maximum opportunity for the former Atlanta Falcons star. His creditors should be content for now and his debt to society has been paid.
Now he has a debt of gratitude to Segal, Lurie, Banner, Reid, the Eagles, Dungy, Goodell and Smith ... for starters.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.