I found it interesting that Michael Vick claims that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was involved with his decision to sign with the Eagles. In a recent GQ story, Vick claims he did not want to sign with Philadelphia, but rather preferred to play for Buffalo or Cincinnati.
I understand Vick wanting to sign in Buffalo when he was released from prison in 2009. The Bills had a void at quarterback at the time (Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick were the options), but I don't get the Bengals. Cincinnati was committed to Carson Palmer for the next five years, therefore Vick would have been a backup in the Queen City, something he wanted to avoid.
Wyche: Unique circumstances
It is important to remember, as we look back two years, that there was not robust interest from many teams in Vick when he was preparing to return to the NFL. Many cities were lobbying against him being allowed to return, and many in the league had doubts that he could return to his former level of play, or that he could handle the onslaught of negative public reaction. Many NFL teams were asking the questions: Does the risk match the reward? How much money would have to be invested to get Vick under contract? Those are both hard questions to answer.
My initial thought, and I wrote it at the time, was that the best place for Vick would be Jacksonville. The Jags needed some excitement in their community, they needed a quarterback to help lead them back to the playoffs and they could take a calculated risk. However, GM Gene Smith believes in building a team with high character players. Therefore, he failed to show any interest in Vick. I called this failure the $100 million mistake, as Vick would have increased the value of that franchise and would have given the town a star player. That said, many other executives and coaches shared Smith's belief in Vick.
With two years in prison to think about his future, according to his GQ interview, Vick had concluded that Buffalo and Cincinnati were the best landing spots. Do I think the commissioner forced Vick to sign in Philadelphia? Absolutely not. But do I think he was involved in making sure Vick was headed to an organization best suited to handle all the elements that would be part of Vick's return? I sure do, because that is his job.
Commissioner Goodell, along with former coach Tony Dungy in an advisory role, needed to make sure Vick's return was as smooth as possible -- sending him to a team that had the infrastructure to handle the many problems his return would create. No one around Vick could predict the success he had last season. Rather, many thought signing him would be a mistake. The team gaining Vick's services had to have a mature locker room, a team of character, not a team of characters.
Now, I am not implying the Bengals or the Bills are a team of characters, but neither club –- two years ago –- was suited to handle the issues, both internally and with the media. The Bengals have been a home for many wayward players, from Pacman Jones to Tank Johnson. Placing Vick in that locker room was not a good idea. As for the Bills, with coach Dick Jauron on the hot seat and Terrell Owens already on the team, they might not have had the best locker room to deal with Vick and all his incoming problems, either.
When Vick was introduced as an Eagle, I was overwhelmed by the love that coach Andy Reid bestowed upon him, clearly showing that he wanted Vick on his team. Regardless of the perceived role that Vick says the commissioner played, I get the feeling Reid was not going to be denied in his pursuit of Vick. Goodell operates in the best interest of the league, not the best for some teams.