For the past few days, I've been thinking of how I want to pose a discussion of signing Michael Vick. He's an enormously controversial figure, and it's impossible to discuss him without getting some heated reactions, on either side. He's just one of those polarizing figures that can't be avoided.
I will attempt to word this as delicately as I can and by alienating as few people as possible. Before I start, I want to make it clear that I understand that, for many of you, I will absolutely never convince he is worth signing. For some, it's because of his play, others his health, and for probably the majority of those who oppose him, his dogfighting past. I understand and can appreciate those concerns. That said, here are my thoughts on the virtue of signing Vick:
With Mark Sanchez, every year the New York Jets babied him and never forced him to get better through competition. Every year, he was given token competition (Kellen Clemens, Mark Brunell) and never actually had to win the starting job; it was simply given to him. And for that, the team has rightly been criticized. Assuming Vick is healthy and can play, I don't think it can be argued that he would provide excellent competition for Geno Smith. Smith might win, he might lose, but the important thing is that he would be challenged to get better by someone other than himself.
And yet, I see some comments from people that are opposed to any serious challenge of Smith. You all know how much I love Smith, but John Idzik seems to be stuck in a Catch-22 here. If he doesn't give Smith competition, he's favoring his draft baby and will baby him like Sanchez. If he does give Smith serious competition, that too is a bad thing.
Let's assume Vick wins the competition and beats Smith out. That tells us where Smith is at. Likewise, if Smith beats out Vick, that too tells us where he is. We may not like to face bad news that our second-year quarterback can't beat out an aging veteran, but it's better to learn that now rather than after we've invested multiple years into his development. I think who wins and loses is being made into a bigger deal than it really is. In either scenario, we gain valuable intel into Geno Smith's future.
If Vick were to win the competition, he deserves the right to start at quarterback. If he performs poorly or gets injured, Smith deserves the right to replace him. Similarly, if Smith were to win the competition, he deserves the right to start, and if he performs poorly, he should be replaced by a quarterback that actually stands a shot at winning a game.
Here's where I get into the truly controversial stuff. The dogfighting history. Many people are opposed to Vick because of his past, even though some have come up with a thin veil of other reasons they can point towards. I can obviously understand where this sentiment comes from. That said, Vick paid the price society (through the judiciary and legislature) deemed appropriate. Since his release from prison, he's created one of the most valuable charities towards preventing future dog abuse and has become a role model ever since, free from any run-ins with the law.
I am not sure what else Vick can do to make things right. Is he forever stained by his previous acts? Yes, absolutely. But I believe in second chances and he's done everything right since. Ex-convicts should not be barred from working because of their history if they've worked to make amends, and I can't think of anything else Vick could have done to make things right. We should be applauding the work he has done since his release, not condemning him to the mistakes he's tried to make resolve. Otherwise, we're setting a poor example for future ex-convicts.
I'm confident that I'm about to open up a can of worms when I ask this, but what are your thoughts?