Mike Vick has become the latest athlete to justify potentially inflammatory comments by saying he was just asked a question. Vick used that time-honored (but ultimately meaningless) crutch on Saturday to explain a series of recent remarks that have created a firestorm in Philly.
Initially, Vick addressed his comments regarding the difficulty of splitting reps with Nick Foles. While Vick didn’t say he was simply asked a question, he said he was never asked if he thinks he’s getting enough reps.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t getting enough reps,” Vick told Howard Eskin of WIP radio. “I never said that out of my mouth, and I wasn’t even asked that question to give a response in that fashion. It’s five quarterbacks, and everybody has to get reps. Everybody has to get better. I understand that. I even help the other quarterbacks when I’m not getting reps, because it’s just in me to help and to try to coach them, and to help myself. We all wish we could get more reps. I wish I could get more reps during the course of a practice. I wish I could have got half of the plays that somebody else may have got, but that wasn’t my selection for the day. It’s difficult at times but at the same time you’ve got to understand the process that we’re all going through, and we’re all in a learning phase.”
As to his comments to CSNPhilly.com regarding a desire that coach Chip Kelly name a starter before camp, Vick placed on the table the “I just was being honest in response to a question” card.
“I was asked, ‘Do you hope that Coach Kelly makes a decision on the quarterback position before training camp?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I would hope so that a decision is made before training camp because I don’t want to continue to get asked the questions about who is having a better practice or who had a better practice that day or who is more equipped to run the offense,” Vick said.
“I mean, the questions are getting repetitive. It’s every day. I know as professionals we have to fulfill certain obligations and respect the media. But at the same time we all have emotions, too. So sometimes you have to be honest in order to deter questions and make sure that the reporter gets exactly what they want and that you get your point across. So I was just trying to relay the message that, yeah, if it was up to me, I’d say yeah. And that’s just me and how I feel and me being honest about it. So that’s it.”
Eskin then summarized for Vick: “You just answered the question, and I guess your problem was you answered it honestly?”
“Yeah, and I guarantee you if you ask Chip what he felt about me answering the question honestly, he’ll probably tell you that he was pleased with that, other than me just saying something that I really didn’t believe in my heart,” Vick said. “Because that’s what he’s instilled in us. Wake up wanting to be great. Wake up wanting to be the best you can be. Don’t think otherwise. Have the confidence. And those are the things that he preaches to us in team meetings and those are the things that he wants us to go out and portray in our life, to try to be great every day. And I think me and my competitive edge want to put myself in a position where I can be great. And I feel like if that’s get more reps, yeah, that’s what I want. So just being honest.”
Vick then said that he reached out to Kelly after the fact, and that Kelly explained “he always wants me to be honest in the things I’m being asked and the questions that I’m being asked, and he told me if somebody ever asks me a question again and you want to be honest and tell them the truth, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
But there’s a big difference between honesty (which is an ironic term given what was coming to a head six years ago) and candor. There’s a way to answer questions honestly and respectfully without the type of blunt candor that will create a mess for the player and the team.
It’s an art, not a science. And it requires the ability to think quickly, and to understand how those words are going to be perceived and interpreted within the broader context.
Vick knows that saying he wants Kelly to pick a starter by the time training camp opens would create a stir; Vick’s reference to “emotions” implies that he did indeed yield to the frustrations inherent to not having a starter named. And he was indeed honest — but he was far too candid, as evidenced by the reaction.
A far better answer would have been something like, “If it’s going to be me, yes. If it’s someone else, no.”
That would have been honest, but far less inflammatory. There’s also some charm residing in that answer, since that’s probably how most people would feel in any similar situation.
Another possibility would have been something like, “It doesn’t matter. He’s not going to name a starter before training camp. And I respect that.”
Again, that’s an honest response. And it wouldn’t have created the perception that Vick is getting frustrated.
So, yes, Vick was answering a question. And, yes, he was being honest. But in being honest he was much more candid than he should have been, and no amount of explanation after the fact, or blaming the media for asking the same questions over and over again, changes that.
Thus, it doesn’t matter whether someone was answering a question. And it doesn’t matter whether someone says they were just “being honest.” A person’s words are their words, and it’s much better to own them than to try to come up with justifications based on ultimately meaningless distinctions.