Today, I bid adieu to the Michael Vick era in Atlanta. Yesterday, he officially confessed and admitted to a crime that seemingly everyone had already pegged him of committing. He pleaded guilty to charges of dogfighting – sentencing will be determined next week. Does this signal the end of his life?? No. But the consequence that has happened in the aftermath of this horrible episode is that his career as an Atlanta Falcon is over.
It was a good run, a lot of fun while it lasted. Sure, there was rampant inconsistency and inexplicable dissapointments along the way, but Michael Vick made the Atlanta Falcons, and more importantly, the city of Atlanta far more relevant than we had become accustomed to prior to his arrival. People actually WANTED to watch the Falcons on TV. I mean, the Falcons were starting to become a team that was supported all across the US – and so much of that had to do with the fact that we had arguably the most exciting playmaker in all of sports at the most highly scrutinized positions in all of sports. Vick legitimized the Falcons. Teams actually feared playing the Falcons and slept uneasy nights knowing they would have to gameplan for his extraordinary talents. I mean, the Falcons received more attention during the Michael Vick era than they have ever previously received during their entire franchise history. Once again, the Falcons were relevant and so much of that had to do with number 7.
Who knows what will happen now to our beloved Falcons?? Will they drift back into the mediocre abyss that they were mired in for so long??? Maybe they will surprise and rise, not like the Falcon, but like the Phoenix from the dead and show that there was more to this team and franchise than a scatter-armed QB with supersonic legs. Maybe they will. Regardless, the Falcons are now like an illegitimate child wondering where their father has disappeared to.
Michael Vick’s first game against the Dolphins saw him unleash a 50-yard sideline rope on the run against a tough Dolphins defense. He just flicked his wrist – nothing more, nothing less. It was then that the NFL realized that they had a future superstar on their hands – it was then that Falcons’ fans saw the first glimpse of some of the promise that would be realized in the following seasons. Who can ever forget the Minnesota game where he rushed for a record 176 yards against the Vikings and scored the winning touchdown in overtime?? Who could ever forget how fast he ran by two defenders that they ran into each other trying to tackle him in the Minnesota game where he scrambled for the 46-yard TD in overtime?? He had us fans salivating. We, as Falcons’ fans, finally felt dangerous. We knew that no one would laugh at us again or overlook us. We were for real and weren’t a gimmicky run and shoot offense anymore. We were for real and we were winning. It felt good.
But now, we feel betrayed and overwhelmingly disappointed. Our leader has let us down. The very leader who Atlanta fans backed even though NFL critics and pundits were criticizing Vick as being more of a running back than a quarterback. We always had his back, regardless of whatever scrutiny he faced. We were always quick to point out the fact that he won at a better clip than any QB not named Manning, Brady, or McNabb. Regardless of how he got it done, he produced W’s. But much of that has changed the past couple of years when the Falcons have been mediocre at best, struggling to remain consistent. Even with all of that, the Falcons were still feared by defensive minds alike and by opposing head coaches. They knew that Vick could go berserk at any moment and single handedly win the game. That didn’t happen as often as Falcons’ fans would have liked, but the possibility was there every Sunday.
But now, we find ourselves starting over again. So much of what this team was about was Michael Vick. The Falcons will not roll over and die, they will fight, and a part of me wants to believe that they will compete for the Southern crown in the NFC. I am naive and biased, but there is still a lot of heart and talent on this team. If we can get average, game-managing play from the QB position with few turnovers – then we have a legitimate shot at competing.
So, farewell Mike Vick. You have done so much for this franchise and for the people and its city, but all good things do come to an end, and this is no different. Hopefully, you will find a way to resurface back into this league once you have paid your debt to society. What a shame though, what a shame…