Thoughts on the complicated Vick-Goodell mess

Sorry buddy, the Eagles provided Roger Goodell with less of headache.

In the spirit of saving time, I think I can assume we’re all up to speed on this whole thing, and can skip the whole setup to my take?  Good?  Good.  OK then…

I’ll first start by saying that the league is claiming that they absolutely did not “force” Michael Vick to go to Philly, and Vick is corroborating that statement.  I think we can believe them, as this story probably would have broken a long time ago if that were the case.  However, I think I have a problem with Goodell even so much as suggesting one team over another, if in fact that occurred.

I don’t have the official Commissioner handbook, but as I understand Roger Goodell’s job, there are probably three conflicting roles that come into play in this scenario.  It’s Goodell’s job to:

– Preserve the image and financial interests of the league as a whole.
– Maintain an even playing field for all 32 teams.
– To a lesser degree, as fellow Eagles blogger Brian Solomon put it, Goodell also probably has a commitment to troubled players, i.e. to help them find the best places to recover.

So which is the most important?

When Michael Vick was reinstated back into the league, obviously Philadelphia would have been the clear-cut preferred destination over Buffalo or Cincinnati, at least in the eyes of the NFL commissioner.  At the time, Reid was the second longest tenured coach in the NFL, and the Eagles had/have one of the most stable front offices in the league, certainly far more stable than the Bills and Bengals.  The Eagles were a place that could deal with the PR hit and ease Vick back into the league.  At the time, Goodell probably would have been happy if he never heard the name “Michael Vick” again.  It was a problem for the league, not a good thing.  But Vick was coming back to play, and there was little Goodell could do to stop it, so “Vick-to-the-Eagles” was the best of the available options.

As it turns out, the Eagles helped turn Vick unexpectedly back into a star player and he became a major draw for the league, yada yada yada, we all know the story.  Would Vick have been the player he is now if he went to Buffalo or Cincinnati?  Probably not.  Does the end justify the actions?  I don’t know.  Financially, it does.  Image-wise, it does.  But the cost was that Goodell basically spit on the fans of the Bills and Bengals.

Any and all decisions the NFL makes are always… A-L-W-A-Y-S… going to be made based on the financial impact, and I think that’s what I find bothersome about the league and Goodell’s tenure as the commissioner on the whole.  I can see the other side of the argument.  Actually, there isn’t an exact “opposite side of the argument.”  There are probably dozens of arguments, as this case is very complicated.

But I’ll almost always side with maintaining a level playing field for all 32 teams, and that is not what happened here.


  1. WeNeedLinemen says:

    I am not an Eagles fan and it really wouldn’t bother me if Goodell had steered Vick to the Eagles. Why, because it wouldn’t have been about favouritism. Beyond anything else, what the NFL desperately needed was for Michael Vick’s return to be kept as low profile as was humanly possible.

    Philly was the perfect situation for the NFL because Vick would end up buried on the depth chart. If they didn’t try to steer him away from teams where he would have started straight away, they really should have.

    Vick caused a media storm despite joining a team with long-term, pro-bowl calibre QB and a young backup, Kolb, who was being groomed as McNabb’s successor. Having Vick walk in to a starting contract straight after leaving prison would have been a PR catastrophe.

    Also, any accusations of favouritism have to be balanced against the sort of value Vick had at the time. In his first year with the Eagles he looked like a shadow of the athlete he had been before he served time. No one knew that he’d get so much of his speed back. It’s why Vick turned into such a good story last year. Many people had written him off as a passer before he went to jail, and prison appeared to have robbed him of his freakish speed. The fact that he played so well last year was a huge surprise to everyone.

    Bills and Bengals fans have no reason to worry that Goodell is steering good players away from them. At the moment, there is only a suggestion that he steered a potential problem towards a team that could hide it at the bottom of its roster.

  2. ICDogg says:

    Dungy was the go-between that enabled Vick and Goodell to work out Vick’s return to the NFL behind the scenes. While nothing Dungy did officially represented either Vick or Goodell, it seems likely that “suggestions” were relayed, and that the smoothest path for Vick to get back to work and collect a good income were for him to follow these “suggestions”.

    1. Thanks for linking to me around the web. Much appreciated.

  3. Faris Toosy says:

    The problems is even if he ‘probably’ wouldn’t be as good as he is now, it seems like the commissioner denied the fans of the Bills and the Bengals the chance to even find out, who knows what his future might’ve been. Maybe Vick will still cause Goodell problems.

  4. Dan in Philly says:

    When you read more of the article, the Goodell comment is way less important than these:

    In the GQ interview and in another with ESPN The Magazine, for issues scheduled to go on sale Aug. 24, Vick said he needed a change of scenery after six years with the Atlanta Falcons, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001 from Virginia Tech.

    “I had lost confidence and was losing my love of the game. Football wasn’t fun anymore,” Vick told ESPN The Magazine. “If I had stayed in Atlanta, I’d be a year or two away from retiring.”

    “In the NFL, schemes make great quarterbacks,” he added in the ESPN The Magazine interview. “I love Atlanta, but I wish now I would have been drafted by the Eagles.”

    It has been widely presumed that Vick’s 21 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to financing a dogfighting ring altered his perspective. But Vick told GQ that prison wasn’t where he decided to make changes.

    “No … I had changed my life long before then. I was just with the wrong team at the wrong time,” Vick told GQ.

    “I was turning the corner. I was cutting my braids off. I was changing my life. I wanted to live the life where football and family were the only things that mattered. I was ready to do it. I felt like time was running out on my career. I needed focus,” he said, according to GQ.

    So, would he still be an elite quarterback if he’d never went to prison or was never discovered to have been involved in dogfighting?

    “Only if I had gotten traded to the Philadelphia Eagles,” he told the magazine. “They never tried to change me.”

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