Michael Vick was the first African-American to be drafted as the number one overall pick in the NFL in 2001. The first pick belonged to the San Diego Chargers, and was traded to Atlanta Falcons. He played in Atlanta for six years. While he was in Atlanta, I was the Director of College Scouting for the Carolina Panthers. At the completion of each season, we held personnel meetings. Coaches, the GM, Pro Scouts, and I were in attendance. The position coaches would evaluate their respective positions and give the grades of each player. The pro scouts and I would have season ending grades on every player including punter, kicker and snapper.
Once the positional grading section was complete, we would review the NFC South Division (Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay), and discuss each team in depth, and give grades on each player, UFA (Unrestricted Free Agents) and RFA (Restricted Free Agents) and the team’s top performers.
When evaluating Atlanta Falcons, every year the main conversation was Michael Vick. For my tenure with the Carolina Panthers, it was a complete nightmare and the conversations, discussions and downright arguments, every year was how do we defeat, stop, or slow down MV7.
The coaching staff would spend weeks – even months – during the off season creating defensive schemes to defeat the Vick nightmare. Coach John Fox had come up with the prefect defense to combat Vick and the Falcons offense, but we were missing a single piece to make it happen. It was like a stone missing from a dike; the water kept leaking.
Atlanta had a several weapons surrounding Vick. They had Pro Bowlers in Alge Crumpler and Warrick Dunn. The only thing they were missing were top flight receivers. Vick carried that organization on his shoulders. He had a strong arm with laser like accuracy, a left handed quarterback that spun a very tight spiral and could squeeze it into a window or stick it on a receiver. The timing and anticipation was inconsistent because Vicks 3, 5, and 7 step drops were so fast, receivers struggled to get to their spot at his drop peak, forcing him to scramble and throw on the run or get creative with his exceptional run skills. A runner that is elusive in tight and open space, defies angles with burst and acceleration, and a nose for the end zone. He was instant offense, a total improv which made him the most dangerous player in the NFC South and the NFL on any given Sunday.
In the 2005 draft, we selected Thomas Davis – a hybrid safety/linebacker from the University of Georgia. The coaches and scouts were mixed on were to play Davis. Coach Fox wanted to make him a Linebacker. My thoughts to Coach Fox, General Manager Marty Hurney and the Owner was, “I don’t care where you play him safety or linebacker, I just want him on this team.” We drafted Davis to spy and defeat Michael Vick. His speed cut the field in half, and we beat Atlanta during the season twice because of Davis.
In 2001 Vick, a Newport News Virginia native, his childhood nickname was “Ookie”. He purchased 15 acres in Smithville, Va. Later he built a beautiful home and designed a Canine Farm, but never moved to the residence. I don’t need to drudge everyone back through that slaughter of dogs found in shallow graves on the back end of the property, along with the dogs found alive that were butchered from fighting not to mention malnutrition. Vick was implicated in an illegal multiple dog fighting ring that went on for several years. He plead guilty to felony charges and severed 21 months in prison.
In 2008 the owner of the Atlanta Falcons Arthur Blank tried to trade the rights to Vick. After attempts to trade him failed, he was released and free to sign with any NFL club. The only team interested in Michael or willing to take a chance on his ability after two year stint in prison, possible decline of skills, and the brutal backlash from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) were the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vick’s looked sluggish in his first year back. He had lost his quickness, burst, acceleration, and change of direction. You could see his mind and body were in position. But the muscles were not reacting. Time had taken its toll. The Eagles coaching staff and strength coaches worked extremely hard to rejuvenate his muscles and mind to get him back to premier speed and performance.
The time invested by the Eagles in a talented athlete that needed a second chance took some time but now are paying dividends. His freaky performance against the Washington Redskins was one for the ages. Vick looks re-born in the eagles’ system. The coaches have slowed down his movement in drops, refined his read progression, taught him patience in the pocket, and made him understand that taking off and running ever play is not necessary because of the weapons on the edge (Jackson, Macklin, Avant).
The Vick nightmare continues in the NFL today. He has regained his form on the field. He is mentally stronger and physically capable to carry a team on his back to the promise land, playoffs and possibly more. He has paid his debt to society.
The only concern for MV7 is the injury factor. In the past he has sustained major season ending injuries (shoulder, Fibula etc) and that is still an issue because Vick turns into a running back if receivers are covered. A creative runner in space that only knows one way when shaking defenders, SCORE!