Rumors have been swirling for the better part of a week now that Michael Vick would officially retire from the NFL. On Friday, he made it official. Now that Vick is finally walking away from football, we can take a step back and truthfully analyze his career and what he meant to the game.
When Vick arrived on the scene in 2001 he was unlike anything we had ever seen before. He was more athletic than Randall Cunningham, faster than most of the league’s receivers, was bold, brash and unapologetically himself, for better or for worse.
Michael Vick no doubt energized a Falcons franchise that lacked a visible face of the franchise since the Dirty Bird era. He brought promise to a sports city that had little to none, he gave little black boys the inspiration to play quarterback differently. To be themselves, and not apologize for their culture.
Vick’s Atlanta years were exciting, but ultimately left a lot to be desired. He never fully developed as a passer, progressing and regressing at times within the same season. He was never into his playbook, nor did he put time and effort into studying his team or opponents. He relied simply on raw talent and that was enough, until the postseason. Of course you can’t leave out the dogfighting saga that sent him to Leavenworth, KS for 18 months. It was the lowpoint of his career, that also set him up for his career’s biggest high. Vick admitted that jail time was the best thing to ever happen to him, it sharpened his focus and made him realize just how much he had lost and how much of the game he took for granted. With renewed energy, Vick got his second chance with the Eagles, where he showcased for two years what he could have been in Atlanta if focused. Age eventually caught up with him, and he finished his career with stints as a Jet and Steeler before hanging it up.
You can pretty much break Vick’s career into eras:
Early Falcons years (01-03), when he became a full-fledged superstar (04-06), Redemption (09-11), the end (12-16). While he was all flash in the beginning, he started to develop some passing consistency and was coupled with a fantastic defense that garnered some small playoff success. He put everything together for a brief stint in Philly, before seeing his skills diminish at the tail end.
Let’s count down his Top 7 performances, in honor of the Incomparable Mike Vick.
#7. The DVD Offense burns out the Rams – January 15, 2005
This one slips in because it was such a dismantling of the Rams that showcased what Atlanta was really about during the Vick era. Strong defense, and a crushing running game. Vick only amassed 82 yards on the ground against St. Louis, but ran for 119 yards while scoring twice. He also opened up running lanes for Dunn and Duckett as St. Louis was focused on him all night.
#6. Breaking the Lambeau Legend – Falcons @ Packers – NFL Wildcard Weekend, January 4, 2003
Vick: 13/25, 117 yards, TD, 10 rush, 64 yards
Vick began his legend by being the first team to ever beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in the postseason. It’s sort of an overrated stat, seeing as the Packers had a VERY long playoff drought, but it was special nevertheless. Also features one of the iconic moments of Vick’s career: readjusting his helmet after a Gbaja-Biamila missed tackle and scrambling for the first down.
#5. The Return – Packers @ Eagles, 2010
Vick: 16/24 175 yards, TD, 11 rushes, 103 yards
The only L on this list. Vick’s first extended return to the field showed fans that he still had something in him and that the best had yet to come for him. Stepping in for Kevin Kolb who injured his jaw in the first half, Vick did his best to lead the Eagles back from being down 20-3 at one point. It was too much to overcome as the Eagles eventually lost 27-20, but they were heading down a path to get blown out if Vick never stepped into the game.
#4. Superman – Panthers @ Falcons, December 18, 2004
Vick: 11/28 154 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 8 rushes, 68 yards, TD
Vick was statistically awful in this game, to his defense, the Panthers defense was pretty damn good that season. That being said, the most memorable part of this game is Vick’s 4th down run to tie the ball game. He dives from about the 5-yard line and somehow keeps his knee from touching the ground to give Atlanta the chance to win. I got in trouble that night because my shouting woke my Aunt up and set off the alarm in her house. My bad Aunt Ann.
#3. Miracle at the Meadowlands Number 2, December 19, 2010
Vick: 21/35 242 yards, 3 TD, INT, 10 rushes, 130 yards, TD
The final quarter of this game is a sight to see. For context: Vick and the Eagles were down 31-10 with just over 8 minutes to go in the game. Vick hits Celek on a bomb, the Eagles recover an onside kick, score, and score again later. When the Giants punt with 14 seconds to go, DeSean Jackson muffs the punt and then pulls off a miracle return to seal the game.
#2. The Walk-off, Falcons @ Vikings, December 1st, 2002
Vick: 11/28 173 yards, TD, INT, 10 rushes, 173 yards, 2 TD
This game is most well known for Michael Vick causing two Vikings defenders to collide en route to a game winning touchdown in Overtime. Mike wasn’t great passing that day, but ran for as many yards as he passed for and accounted for 3 scores.
#1. Monday Night Massacre – Washington @ Philadelphia, November 15, 2010
Vick: 20/28 333 yards, 4 TD, 8 rushes, 80 yards, 2 TDs
Whenever someone asks you “man, Mike Vick, I wonder what could have been”, this is the game you show them. This is what Falcons fans one day hoped Vick would become. This incarnation of Michael Vick was an absolute machine. Precise with the football, dangerous with his legs, and able to turn nothing into something. This night belonged to Michael Dwayne Vick, and the world watched as he worked magic and put together one of the greatest Monday Night Football performances of all-time.