The Jets made a quarterback change on Monday, replacing Geno Smith with Michael Vick.
While the Jets playoff chances are basically nil, having lost seven games in a row, they need a morale-boosting victory very badly.
And if Jets coach Rex Ryan stayed with Smith any longer, he risked losing his locker room.
Smith threw three interceptions on the first three Jets possessions in the team’s 43-23 loss to Buffalo on Sunday.
The Jets’ players aren’t stupid. They know the veteran Vick gives them a better chance to win than Smith, who is still a major work-in-progress.
Vick remains, even at 34, a freak of nature.
He can still run like the wind, and has a howitzer arm. He flicks his wrist, and the ball comes out of his hand like a ballistic missile.
Vick will be the first to admit God blessed him with great gifts.
The guy can still play.
Perhaps he’s a young 34 after missing two seasons spent in the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, for promoting, funding, and facilitating a dog-fighting ring in his hometown in Newport News, Virginia. He served 21 months, and missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
The problem isn’t Vick’s age, but his proclivity to get hurt due to his size and playing style. He is not a big quarterback at six foot, 215 pounds, and is such a gifted runner–he likes to scramble–and this leads to a lot of big hits in the open field. Vick gets hurt a lot.
His last two seasons in Philly, he dealt with a number of injuries, and this eventually led to him losing his starting job to Nick Foles.
If Vick can stay healthy, the Jets can win games with him. After having one of the toughest schedules in the NFL over the first half of the season, their slate of games over the second half isn’t a murderer’s row.
The Jets play in Kansas City on Sunday, and you know darn well that Chiefs coach Andy Reid isn’t thrilled about the Jets’ quarterback change.
Reid knows first-hand how good Vick can be when he brings his A-Game.
Remember, after two years out of the NFL, it was Reid, then the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, who gave Vick a second chance in the NFL.
After serving as a backup in 2009, Vick became the starting quarterback in 2010, leading the Eagles to the playoffs en route to being named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
And it was quite a comeback, not just in football, but in life. But one a lot of animal-rights activists felt should never have happened considering the level of cruelty Vick, and his cohorts, meted out to man’s best friend.
While what Vick did was horrific, what kind of message would it send if a person who paid his debt to society and served his time wasn’t allowed a chance at redemption? With no hope, that would likely lead to more bad behavior, more criminality.
Vick’s comeback shows people from hard-scrabble backgrounds who makes mistakes that you can rise from the ashes.
Vick grew up in the housing projects of Newport News, Virginia, the son of a 15-year-old mother.
His childhood was far from a happy one.
“I would go fishing even if the fish weren’t biting, just to get away from the violence and stress of daily life in the projects,” Vick told the Newport News Daily Press.
Like so many players in the NFL, he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in a very messed-up environment.
The evil act of dog-fighting was a part of the culture–just like punishing children with a switch was part of the culture for embattled Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, growing up with in Texas. Now he’s suspended for doing the same thing to his son.
As we see so many college and pro athletes getting in trouble, it’s important to keep in mind the terribly dysfunctional environments in which a lot of these guys grew up. To ignore this fact is burying one’s head in the sand.
Vick can be a good role model to the litany of athletes in trouble for off-the-field indiscretions such as Peterson, or perhaps some kid on the South Side of Chicago, who ran afoul of the law. If you get your act together, and pay your debt to society, there is a chance at redemption, and you don’t have to be a dead-ender the rest of your life.
And now the Jets turn to Vick to give their season some redemption.
Photo credit: Alan Schaefer