If we are to believe the coaches, signing Michael Vick to play for the Eagles was about God and Country — not what Vick might be able to do lined up in the “wildcat” offensive formation.
“So I think we’re just seeing a symbol of some great leadership and Christian forgiveness,” said Tony Dungy, the respected former NFL coach who has taken on the role of Vick’s spirit guide.
“Fortunately, in this country if we handle ourselves properly, we are given an opportunity for second chances,” said Andy Reid, the head coach who pushed to sign Vick.
Clearly, Dungy and Reid believe what they said. There is no doubting their desire to offer Vick an opportunity to rewrite his legacy and atone for his actions. There’s a football component here, to be sure, but there is something more.
Here’s the problem. By defending the Vick signing in those terms, Dungy and Reid also imply that anyone who disagrees with the move is somehow not Christian (or forgiving) and not American enough. And that’s just not fair.
It is possible to wish Vick a redemptive and productive future without wanting to spend your Sunday afternoons rooting for him on the football field. It is possible to think he paid his debt to society for his egregious behavior and also think it is a mistake for the Eagles to add him to their team.
Let’s also call a foul on the use of the word “mistake” to describe what Vick did. This was not some spontaneous, unwise decision or action. Vick and his cohorts built carefully hidden facilities to conduct an ongoing criminal dogfighting and gambling enterprise. Over a period of six years, Vick personally killed dogs in ghastly ways: hanging, electrocution and drowning.
That’s not a mistake. That’s a way of life. And yes, it is fair to believe behavior that appalling, over a period of years, says more about a man’s character than a few public expressions of remorse.
There were some very harsh words used to describe Vick’s crimes on Friday, as the shock of his signing faded to grudging acknowledgement that he’s an Eagle. Words like “horrific” and “anathema” and “horrendous cruelty.” Those words didn’t come from the handful of protesters who turned up outside the NovaCare Complex or from a PETA press release.
They came from Jeff Lurie, the owner of the Eagles and the man who ultimately had to sign off on what he described as a “counterintuitive” decision.
Two years ago, as Vick’s case was making national headlines, Lurie made it clear he would never tolerate having such a player on his team. Earlier this month, he reiterated his core belief that a commitment to “high-character” players and coaches was at the foundation of the Eagles’ success over the last decade.
Before anyone could ask Lurie to explain this obvious contradiction, he took it upon himself in a remarkable 10-minute monologue. Lurie was visibly uncomfortable with this whole thing.
For years, the Eagles took pride in not being one of those teams that signed any talented miscreant who came along. They scoffed when the Dallas Cowboys scooped up Pacman Jones or some such villain. The Eagles were different.
That’s gone now.