Why? Two reasons. The first is pretty basic. As recently as Tuesday, people within the organization scoffed at the notion of signing Vick. Laughed about it even being a possibility.
The second reason? The Eagles don’t need Michael Vick. At all.
Michael Vick is an Eagle because the Eagles believe this is the right thing to do.
This is a charity move orchestrated by Eagles coach Andy Reid. It’s a softhearted, Father Flanagan, “there are no bad boys” decision.
This isn’t going to make the 2009 Philadelphia Eagles appreciably better. It might make them worse. This is a team that had the lead in the NFC Championship last year with three minutes remaining. This is a team that has an enviable situation at quarterback with a veteran Pro Bowler in Donovan McNabb, a decent veteran in A.J. Feeley and a young, developing QB in Kevin Kolb, whom the Eagles thought enough of to spend a second-round pick on.
We all missed the boat. We all presumed that the team hiring Vick would have A) a quarterback situation in some disarray, B) a renegade owner desperate to win and C) a fan base that would either be unmoved by V ick’s presence because the team stunk or they were desperate.
And none of those elements are in play for the Eagles.
Now, you and I can go round and round on whether Vick deserves such benevolence so quickly. Ultimately, neither of us will be proven right or wrong, no matter which side we take.
But you cannot argue the good intentions of Reid and the Philly brass he swayed to pursue Vick: owner Jeffrey Lurie, president Joe Banner and GM Tom Heckert. They are extending themselves to give Vick a shot at redemption.
It is a humane thing to do for a person like Vick, whose inhuman actions currently define him.
Reid was very up front about the motivating factors for his pushing the team to sign Vick. His sons, Garrett and Britt, were both jailed in November 2007 for drug-related offenses and Reid is full of empathy for Vick.
“I'm a believer that, as long as people go through the right process, they deserve a second chance,” said Reid. “Michael has done that. I've done a tremendous amount of homework on this and followed his progress. He’s got some great people in his corner and he's proven he's on the right track. ... I’ve seen people close to me that have had second chances and taken advantage of those, and it's very important that people give them opportunities to prove that they can change and we’re doing that with Michael.”
Later, Reid said, “I’ve followed Michael Vick’s situation very closely with the things my boys have been through. I’ve lived that and I’ve seen change on my family’s side.”
The football, here, is an afterthought. Reid didn’t even work Vick out to see what kind of shape he’s in.
As for his role, Reid said, “We’ll get him back in the swing, and I’ll think of something for him.”
Every other team in the league should be thanking the Eagles. The distraction that is Vick is gone for them. The Eagles have brought him into their very stable fold and will help his transition back into the NFL. At their own peril, they’ve done this.
The press conferences, the questions, the practice reps, the extra coaching time, the need to create a role for Vick, the need to make McNabb not feel threatened, the worry that Vick might be just paying lip service to everyone so that he can get a job and start paying his bills again? It’s all on Philly now.
“We feel good about it,” Reid said.
And they should. They did a nice thing for a person who has done some not-nice things. They extended a hand to someone who’s down. Vick needs the Eagles more than the Eagles need Vick. Yet they took him on anyway.
So how does Vick respond now that he’s been thrown a lifeline? Remember, this is a person who has been coddled and enabled all of his adult life. Since he’s been on the planet, Michael Vick has been allowed to be all about Michael Vick. And although the Eagles’ intentions are good, this is another instance in which Vick is being told how very important he is. The inconvenience his presence brings to everyone relative to the contributions he’ll make this season, in fact, makes him the most important person in the organization.
Whether they realize it or not, the Eagles have put Project Redeem Vick at the forefront of their 2009 season. They’ve done so with all good intentions. So how does this improve an already very good football team? It doesn’t.