No comment as to his guilt or innocence. It is too early for that.
Nonetheless, given that he’s been indicted, I had a few thoughts about Michael Vick in order of importance to me.
1) I’m not a fan of the Atlanta Falcons. I’m a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last year, the Falcons beat the Steelers in Atlanta and knocked Ben Roethlisberger out of the game. The Steelers were dominating the game but made a few mistakes and failed to put the Falcons away early. What should have been a blowout became one of the Falcons best wins of the season. Alge Crumpler was the star of that game. A few years back, the Falcons came to Pittsburgh and Vick was dominant. The Steelers, with a far superior team playing on their home field, were lucky to manage a tie with the Falcons.
On the field, Vick has been a phenomenal talent whose career has resembled that of John Elway in the early years. Under Dan Reeves, the Broncos relied on Elway’s cannon arm and swift legs while a finesse running game, mediocre blockers, and an undersized defense sought to win big games. The Broncos often came up short. It could be argued that those Reeves led teams had it easier than these Falcons. The old AFC was tough, but today’s league is brutal. The Falcons play in a conference with two recent Super Bowl contenders and the hottest team to hit the league in years. The competitive balance across the league is better now than it was when Elway arrived from Stanford with a big arm and even bigger teeth.
The implication here is not that Vick is better than Elway. Hardly. The point is that the essential attributes of their abilities (a powerful arm and unprecedented speed at the position) were the hallmarks of team success. As great as Elway was, he could not get over the top until new leadership took over the franchise and remodeled the most important components of the team. The Broncos replaced finesse runners like Sammy Winder with power backs like Terrell Davis. They filled the void left by small defenders like Tom Jackson with steroid-stuffing robo-tacklers like Bill Romanowski. The shift from Reeves’ finesse to Mike Shanahan’s power was what lifted the Broncos to the pinnacle. The Falcons are nowhere near the pinnacle – and it doesn’t have too much to do with Michael Vick.
2) The Falcons do not have a championship caliber team. A few years ago, the Green Bay Packers were still considered a championship caliber team. The Falcons, led by Vick, became the FIRST team to ever win a playoff game at Lambeau Field. That’s an amazing feat. Tom Landry’s teams never did it. Bill Walsh’s teams never did it. Bill Parcells’ teams never did it. Admittedly, the Packers have been up-and-down since the Lombardi era, but Starr and Favre held that streak for decades until MV7 came to town. The Falcons won that game, but were easily dispatched a week later by the Philadelphia Eagles.
That team showed considerable promise. They’ve never hit that level again. The Falcons problems transcend the QB position. They lack a power running game AND the ability to run for TDs in the Red Zone. They lack a consistent corps of wide receivers. The offensive line is mediocre. The defense is erratic. They are spectacular one game and invisible the next. Last year, the Falcons beat the Steelers and lost to the Detroit Lions. The Lions won twice last year.
3) I am a pit bull owner – by marriage. I inherited the pooch. He’s been wonderful and sweet for his entire life. It seems he was abused as a puppy. The original owner had intentions of turning him into a fighter. He was unsuccessful and passed him on to someone else. My wife became the third owner and has had him since he was 7 months old.
Dog fighting is a national phenomenon. It happens in New York City. I have no idea where. I can imagine that it’s either on the outskirts of the boroughs or in the depths of the city where the noises of combat cannot be heard. I know that if dog fighting occurs in rural Virginia and New York City, it must be happening in other locales across the nation. I am disappointed, given how my dog came to me, that the federal government has not expanded the reach of this INVESTIGATION to flag a broader swath of individuals and networks.
There appears to be a great deal of work to do.