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Is Michael Vick the Jets' savior?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The great, almost mythic Michael Vick of nearly a decade ago in Atlanta is overshadowing the present day Michael Vick, and even Vick acts like he knows it. The chants for him to replace Geno Smith during Sunday's loss to Detroit as Smith was committing two more turnovers and presiding over the Jets' third straight loss had to be flattering to Vick on some level.

But what's gone too ignored amid all the magical thinking is which Vick would the Jets get if they played him?

The picture of Vick that's etched in too many people's brains (including some of his teammates') is not the man who was oft-injured at his last stop in Philadelphia, lost his job to Nick Foles, and finished his Eagles' stay a pedestrian 12-18 as the starter while padding his own unflattering turnover totals of 91 career fumbles and 85 interceptions. Vick is remembered more as a freakish athlete who broke in with Atlanta, a quarterback with sprinter's speed and an arm so strong the laces on the ball hiss when he throws it.

But that kind of nostalgia seems like wishful thinking, even to Vick.

"It doesn't mean I'm going to come in and save the game," he says.

Vick likes to remind people he's 34 now, with 12 years in the league. Sometimes he invokes all that experience to underline the resourcefulness he's acquired over time. ("I'm pretty sure I could come up with something," he said Wednesday, when asked if he gets enough work in practice to be ready for game action.)

But still other times, Vick reminds you of how long he's played to suggest it's hard to break the habits he acquired in all those years as a starter. And he's been quietly but consistently clear that he wants little part of being some kind of relief pitcher who comes into games if Smith sputters.

"It's just different, and better, when you're getting all the work all week with the first team in practice, throwing to the first-team wide receivers," he said with a shrug Wednesday, after a crowd of reporters left his locker. "I try to do the best I can, whether it's in pregame warm-ups, trying to get some throws in. But you do all the warming up, and then maybe you're sitting for 30 or 40 minutes [before getting a snap in the game], you know?"

If that.

If you haven't noticed, Rex Ryan's talk about creating special packages for Vick to run in games hasn't panned out, same as it never really happened for Tim Tebow here before him. In the Jets' first four games, Vick's snap totals have dwindled from three to two to one to zero in Sunday's 24-17 loss to Detroit. What plays he has had haven't produced much.

If Vick minds not being used more, he hasn't let on. If anything, the opposite seems true. He consistently said he sees spot duty as "disruptive" for the offense long before Smith was so upset by Sunday's loss and the booing and chants for Vick to enter the game that Smith cursed at a heckler on his way off the field.

All that's happened since then is the Jets' offense called a players-only meeting.

Then Smith -- despite his assertions he was in a great frame of mind -- had a terse exchange with a newspaper reporter Wednesday who asked if there was any "value" in bringing Vick into Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers for a quarter, or even just "a spark".

"A spark? What do you mean 'a spark'? What team does that?" Smith shot back. "Maybe that's your opinion. It's not a question."

Then Ryan got himself in a jam by intentionally or unintentionally feeding the conspiracy theories that general manager John Idzik isn't really invested in him because the Jets have the lowest payroll in the league, with nearly $22 million in salary cap room unspent.

On Monday, Ryan set off cries that he's been neutered by Idzik by insinuating that he doesn't have the power to replace Smith as the starter. Then on Wednesday -- despite all the noise that created -- Ryan refused to say he could even change the number of reps that Vick gets in practice daily, without getting approval.

"Again, that's an organizational decision," Ryan repeated, then jokingly added he was re-using that answer because it "went over so-o-o well" before.

Vick seems to have taken note of the charged politics that are in play inside the Jets' organization right now. And he's actively trying to manage expectations. Idzik is invested in Smith's success after using a second-round pick to get him. But Ryan has a shaky contract situation and has to win now. He can't afford three more straight losses to Philip Rivers, then Denver and Peyton Manning, then New England and Tom Brady on top of the three-game losing streak the Jets are already riding.

What Vick seems to be asking for, if you read between the lines, is for the Jets to put him in the best position to succeed. He wants the same courtesy Smith now gets, which is to prepare all week if he's going to play. He doesn't seem to think running the scout team Monday through Friday and then being asked to save everyone's butt in cameo appearances is good for anybody. Not him. Not Smith. Not this team.

Vick, referring now to the pressure the boos created for Smith, and for Ryan to replace him Sunday, said, "I've been through it. It's so unfair. You can ruin quarterbacks that way."

You can ruin a team, too, by thinking that your backup quarterback is more than a backup too. Right now, bad as this season has gone, the Jets are only one game out of first place in the AFC East.

Vick might be marginally better than Smith, especially when it comes to curing the Jets' problems scoring touchdowns once inside the 20, just because of his experience alone.

But a savior, even just in the short term? Is that the Vick the Jets would get if he starts?

Even Vick -- who says "I'm only one person" -- suggests it ain't so.

The rest of us should listen to him and pump the brakes on the magical thinking too.