In April 2001, the Falcons pulled off a stunning trade, sliding into the No. 1 spot via a deal with the Chargers and landing former Virginia Tech quarterback Mike Vick.
Not long thereafter (or perhaps previously), Vick embarked on a lifestyle of dogfighting, which would last until the operation was discovered by police in April 2007.
The man who pulled off the trade for Vick, former Falcons coach Dan Reeves, believes that, once Vick landed in hot water, the team shouldn’t have cut him loose.
“When Mike really needed them they turned their back on him in my opinion,” said Reeves, via Tim McManus of PhiladelphiaSportsDaily.com. “They could have been a big supporter and they let him go. I think it could have been handled differently.
“I wasn’t there so I don’t know the organization’s standpoint, but I thought they could have been more supportive and instead they severed ties with him.”
Here’s the organization’s standpoint, as best we can discern via a recollection of the circumstances and the application of common sense.
Vick lied, repeatedly and brazenly, to the organization, to owner Arthur Blank, and to Commissioner Roger Goodell. Vick disgraced himself, the team, and the league via a pattern (not a “mistake” but a pattern) of fighting dogs, gambling on dog fights, and killing in cold blood dogs deemed unworthy of fighting other dogs. (He has admitted to this last point, but his story of redemption would be less compelling if the media dwells on that part of it too much. So the media rarely does.)
Even if Arthur Blank and the Falcons had decided to stand by their man, what were they supposed to do? Use a revolving door of journeymen at quarterback until Vick emerged from prison and regained his form? The team would have been a mess not for one season — as it was in 2007 — but for three, or maybe more.
There’s no guarantee Vick would have returned to Atlanta and performed there like he has in Philadelphia. Perhaps only Eagles coach Andy Reid, a wizard when it comes to getting the most out of quarterbacks, could have engineered the stunning second act of Vick’s career.
Either way, the Falcons made the only decision they could make under the circumstances. Vick needed a complete and total wake-up call in order to change his life. The Falcons helped give him that, and there’s a good chance that Vick never would have gotten to his current level or maturity and success unless the Falcons fired him.