Michael Vick resurrected his football career in Philadelphia. Given the chance for redemption by the franchise, Vick took advantage of the opportunity to re-make his image, sharpen his football skills and get his life in order after spending 23 months in federal jail for his part in financing and operating the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting ring.
In those five seasons with the Eagles, Vick worked hard to get his body back in football shape and his game up to the level of a starter-caliber quarterback. He regained the quickness and burst to run away from pass rushers. He honed the resolve needed to engineer late-game comebacks, and in the process he won over the locker room and become one of the leaders the Eagles looked to in the locker room.
Vick was a professional off the field, too, an accommodating figure for the media on a daily basis and a go-to player and person for the organization in its community and charitable endeavors. Vick spent much of his first season speaking out, with great clarity and effectiveness, in an anti-dogfighting campaign organized by the Humane Society of America.
Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie spoke for the organization on Friday when news broke that Vick joined the New York Jets with a one-year contract.
"I want to personally wish Michael Vick and his family all the best as he heads into the next phase of his career in New York," said Lurie. "I really enjoyed getting to know him over the last five years. He always represented our team with a tremendous amount of class. Michael was a great teammate, a great leader and we're thankful for everything he provided to our organization and to our community."
Vick wasn't going to have the chance to start for the Eagles, not with Nick Foles ascending as he is. Foles stepped in for Vick in 2013 and piloted the Eagles to the NFC East title and a 10-6 record, tossing 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions in the regular season. This is a young roster with a young quarterback, and Vick wanted more. He wanted to a shot to be the man again, and he'll have that in New York competing against second-year quarterback Geno Smith.
Vick will also reunite with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who had the same job description in Philadelphia through the 2012 season. The two paired up nicely in 2010 when Vick replaced an injured Kevin Kolb in the lineup in the opening game of the season against Green Bay and proceeded to have a Pro Bowl season. That was Vick at his best – footloose, fast and decisive. He was a whirling dervish in and out of the quarterback pocket and his cannon arm helped the Eagles light up the scoreboard and win the NFC East.
But the situation has changed, as we all understand. Vick struggled both with mistakes and injuries in the seasons that followed, and Foles emerged and the dynamic changed for the Eagles. So Vick has another turn in his career and the Eagles have to find their answer for a backup quarterback for 2014.
Foles was remarkable in 2013 taking over the offense. He's got tremendous command of the playbook and displays a cool efficiency in the pocket and there are few young quarterbacks in the game who have accomplished what Foles has in two seasons. The Eagles have two quarterbacks in addition to Foles on the depth chart at the moment – Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne. The natural question is whether head coach Chip Kelly will bring another arm on board, and if he does, what is he is looking for?
Barkley is someone to watch when the team begins its offseason strength and conditioning program on April 21. A fourth-round draft pick last April, Barkley has a full season under his belt and would benefit from as many reps as he can get in the team's training sessions. Barkley's game experience last season, while a struggle at the time in difficult circumstances, will benefit him in the long run. He has a taste for the speed of the NFL's regular season. Barkley is a smart young man who has enjoyed tremendous success in his football career, and he embraces the challenge of taking his game to a new level.
Kinne is an athletic quarterback who earned a spot on the practice squad last year after impressing the coaching staff in training camp. The spate of injuries at the quarterback position – Vick's hamstring and Foles' concussion – required the Eagles to reach out to Ginne and he returned to the practice squad and spent half a season learning the NFL way.
The picture at quarterback has been altered with Vick's move to New York. And while the Eagles wish Vick the best of luck, they also know they have an important position to evaluate and satisfy for the season ahead.