Monday night, Michael Vick was "the man." Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to record more than 300 passing yards, over 50 rushing yards, four or more passing touchdowns and two or more rushing touchdowns, all in one game. Not only did he give what some are arguing to be the greatest quarterback performance in the history of the NFL, he did it on Monday Night Football, one of the biggest NFL stages other than the Super Bowl. Vick led the Eagles to franchise records for total yardage (592) and points in a half (45). They were leading 28-0 at half-time, which is the most for any road team since 1950. It was amazing!
Vick's burst of greatness couldn't have come at a better time. It seems like a million years ago when his entire life was in shambles over dog-fighting charges. Since that time, he's been to prison, gotten a pathetically small new contract with another team and worked his way back up the NFL hierarchy.
Last night's performance made Vick into an instant legend, revealing a degree of depth, promise and development that surprised nearly everyone. Similar to the day that Michael Jordan learned how to shoot a basketball (rather than simply dunk over everyone), Michael Vick became one of the most dangerous passing quarterbacks in the NFL.
Vick's shocking performance has implications that even go beyond the fact that he was in prison a little more than a year ago. There's also the fact that Vick's team, the Philadelphia Eagles, was playing against the Washington Redskins, home of their old quarterback, Donovan McNabb. Second, it's always interesting to watch two of the greatest black quarterbacks in NFL history go at it on the big stage; black quarterbacks have come a long way.
Third, there's the fact that McNabb just signed a massive $78-million contract extension with the Redskins. Vick's timely and dominant performance over McNabb last night makes a clear case, to some, that Michael should get a contract just as large. So while Eagles ownership was happy to see Vick emerge as a superstar, they were likely checking their bank accounts to see if they can still afford to pay him.
I doubt that Michael Vick will earn a McNabb-like contract anytime soon. While this might sound crazy, the reason that Michael Vick, in spite of his talent, is not yet worth the money being paid to McNabb is that Vick's past makes him a much higher business risk.
Throughout his career, Donovan McNabb has been as consistent as a brick in an old building. He doesn't get arrested in night club fights, he isn't likely to get shot by his baby mama's ex-boyfriend, he isn't likely to end up on the 6 o'clock news in handcuffs, and he sure as heck isn't stupid enough to get involved in dog fighting.
Given that professional athletes are assets to their teams, McNabb's consistency as a human being makes him worth a princely investment, even if he isn't quite as good as Michael Vick. Just for the record, I say all this as one of the few people on CNN defending Michael Vick three years ago. I didn't think he was innocent, but I felt that the lynch mob mentality that Americans used against him was reflective of exactly the kind of racism that has been thrust toward African-American athletes for a very long time. In fact, it was despicable.
I still have a great deal of hope for Michael Vick. He sealed part of his fate three years ago in the dog-fighting scandal, and he also sealed his fate with last night's performance. By instantly making his team into a Super Bowl contender, Vick has guaranteed himself a handsome financial future. I do pray, however, that he doesn't allow the demon of arrogance to poison his soul. He has learned up close that you are never too big to fall, and a black man must always be determined to make good decisions.
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