Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Football Wrap Week 10: Mike Vick = The One

I'm gonna take y'all back to 1999 for this week's wrapup. Back when Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer were a program on the rise and yours truly was a sophomore in HS. Michael Vick had me captivated as a QB I had never seen before. Greatest freshman finish in the Heisman Trophy since Herschel Walker and was a quarter away from a national title against Peter Warrick and Florida State.

I still remember the SI cover previewing the 2000 season. Vick with a lightning bolt behind him leading a revolution of quarterbacks who could run and pass with fear. He was an unstoppable weapon who in another world should've been a San Diego Charger legend (of course, Chargers fans thank him for that trade b/c that trade made LaDainian Tomlinson a Charger legend).

We waited to see him evolve from a freaky athlete into a nightmare for NFL defenses. He had signature moments - beating Brett Favre in Lambeau en route to the NFC title game, that OT game-winning run against Minnesota - but he had yet found a Morpheus who would make him realize his potential. He was gifted but still raw.

At the same time, he was the People's champ. I had his jersey and everyone rooted for him. That's when I learned the NFL was slow to change - Vick didn't revolutionize the position. I realized why Steve Young and Randall Cunningham were rare in their mold as modern-day dual threats. The NFL, despite d-lineman and linebackers getting faster and stronger, was still a pass-1st league and unless Vick conformed, he'd be the People's Champ but never fully respected.

Enter Tony Dungy walking into his life as a mentor post-prison. Enter Donovan McNabb who remembered Vick from when he hosted him at Syracuse in the late 90's and asked the Eagles to sign him. Both men provided what so many young Black men need these days - guidance, leadership, someone to hold them accountable.

Vick listened. His gifts were still evident in his comeback season but we watched him develop more as a person than a quarterback. He had to believe and take advantage of his 2nd chance, not just be grateful to receive it. When his mentor went to Washington, it was time to take the lead like Neo in the lobby.

10 years later, he's become the One. He's tapped into the Matrix and learned to combine his gifts with the intelligence to be a quarterback. Monday night, we watched one of the greatest QB performances in NFL history.

#7 was accurate, going through his progressions, hitting wide receivers in near perfect stride and running as a weapon, not out of desperation. He's shown future dual-threat QBs in Pop Warner and high schools all over what the next level is. 400 total yards of offense and 6 total TD's as part of the greatest offensive explosion in Monday Night Football history.

All this season, we've marveled at his growth. 4-0 as a starter. No interceptions. Making Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jax and LeSean McCoy better players. An incredible passer rating. Leading the Eagles to the top of the NFC East. Monday night was that Matrix-level performance we've been waiting to see for a decade.

He deserves to be in the MVP conversation. Philip Rivers is the only player worthy of consideration since he's on track to pass for over 5,000 yards and he's about to heat up with his usual November/December brilliance. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are token picks but in my opinion, Vick is hands down the favorite.

Redemption is a great story. And there's no better story we're watching than seeing Michael Vick not just regain his place as a starting QB but playing at some of the best football of his career. He's become The One we all knew he could be and then some.

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