Skip to main content

Different paths lead former teammates Vick, Schaub to same spot

With Michael Vick's dogfighting trial and then-coach Bobby Petrino's alienation of nearly everyone in the franchise dominating the circus that was the Atlanta Falcons in 2007, one of the most overlooked developments was the team's trade of Matt Schaub to Houston for two second-round picks.

Of course, Atlanta had no idea they wouldn't have Vick, who they were committed to, otherwise they wouldn't have dealt Schaub, who was entering a contract year. But looking back -- and ahead -- it's amazing how two players and three teams have been transformed since.

Schaub is the face of the Texans. Vick is now the face of the Eagles. The Falcons, after crashing and burning, have posted three consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history and behind quarterback Matt Ryan, are arguably the best team in the NFL.

This isn't about the Falcons and where they've come since, though. This is about Vick, 30, and Schaub, 29, who handled their situation as teammates with competitive grace, and how each has developed in his own way since parting ways.

They're not friends, but they are cool with each other. In a phone conversation Tuesday, Schaub said he hasn't spoken to Vick this season, but he'll seek him out before they play each other Thursday in Philadelphia, to catch up some.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing him," Schaub said.

Schaub's perspective of Vick, like many of ours, has changed and grown since they were college foes at Virginia and Virginia Tech, respectively, and teammates in Atlanta from 2004-2007, but not as much as you'd think. Vick taught Schaub more than any of us might guess, and Schaub's high respect for Vick isn't borne so much from Vick's redemptive comeback this season but how he managed himself last year in the face of uncharted scrutiny.

"The way things went with Mike when he signed there last year after everything he went through, I was happy for him," Schaub said. "It was a good fit to get back into football and be with Donovan (McNabb), where he could learn and not have pressure on him. He got to watch and then participate in a system he knew very well, and he set himself up to play well this season.

"It was really impressive how he handled himself and now, how it's turned out seeing the progress he's made as a quarterback and off the field."

Vick and Schaub, as things have turned out, are kind of the same guy -- not who they are, but what they once were and what they have become. Vick, last season, walked in the same shoes Schaub sported as Vick's understudy. He wanted to play, knew he was good enough to play, but professionally waited his turn knowing that trying to upset the establishment (McNabb) might not have gone too well.

In Atlanta, Schaub, drafted in the third round in 2004 after Vick missed most of the 2003 season with a foot injury, stepped into a tailor-made offense. He played in a West Coast scheme at Virginia and quickly got up to speed. Vick was the franchise and was nearing his peak as one of the NFL's most popular players, but Schaub was a perfect scheme fit.

Schaub's preseason appearances and the few times he stepped in for Vick when he was injured were so solid that he drew constant trade interest and cries from armchair quarterbacks to deal Vick: Much like what's gone on with Kevin Kolb and Vick in Philly -- and that's nothing compared to what's about to happen when Vick's contract expires at the end of this season.

Schaub got dealt, got a big contract and became the face of Houston's franchise in 2007. In turn, he walked -- and is walking -- in the shoes Vick wore. And like how Vick showed humility and patience while honing his craft last season like Schaub did for three seasons in Atlanta, Schaub now relies on lessons learned from being around Vick up close.

"From watching how he did those weekly and post-game news conferences and how he dealt with the media and the pressure and being the face of the franchise allowed me to develop my approach when I got my opportunity," Schaub said. "Interesting how it's worked out."

Texans quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta with Vick and Schaub. Though he said he hasn't seen but one game tape of Vick, the most noticeable change he's seen "is he's more decisive and not relying so much on his athleticism."

Knapp went on: "The thing I've heard the most, which is good, is how much he's dedicated himself off the field and what a huge difference that's made for him."

Of course, Knapp works daily with Schaub. After being away from Schaub for three seasons before reuniting with him in 2010, Knapp has noticed a lot of change.

"He has complete control of the offense," Knapp said. "I'm also proud of the way he's protected the ball really well. He's kept the team out of harm's way. When he was in Atlanta, he was wet behind the ears and was always like 'Teach me. Teach me.' Now the way he carries himself in the locker room and deals with people on both sides of the ball, you feel the confidence coming from him."

Schaub and Vick knew each other well. Their lockers in Atlanta were beside each other and they spent a lot of time together chopping it up. When I covered the Falcons for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I'd watch how close they were, almost united in cause like offensive linemen are. There were a few times when the quiet, even reclusive, quarterbacks allowed me to join their off-the-record conversations at their lockers, usually when the topic dealt with their college days.

Both were so easy it wasn't difficult to figure out why they seemed to click. I don't think they spent much time together off the field, but when they were at their jobs, they had each other's backs, much the way Vick stood by Kolb, not in front or behind him during their weeks of indecision early this season as to who was the rightful starter.

While Vick was out of football serving a suspension and prison sentence for dogfighting, Schaub emerged as one of the NFL's leading quarterbacks. When Vick came back last season, Schaub was the NFL's leader in passing yards.

Now, with Vick the starter in Philadelphia, the scales seem to be balancing.

Schaub is still cranking out big yards in Houston's pass-dominant offense (236 for 367, 2,752 yards, 15 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 92.6 passer rating); but Vick (149 for 235, 1,941 yards) has been equally as efficient, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio (13-1) and passer rating (106) are league bests. Vick's Eagles are tied for the NFC East lead with the Giants, while Schaub's Texans are battling to stay in contention in the jumbled AFC South.

The different paths each has walked doesn't seem to be taking them in opposite directions. In fact, what we're seeing happen is two college adversaries and former NFL teammates meeting halfway on a bridge connecting their careers.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.