COMMENTARY | The Philadelphia Eagles announced on Feb. 11 that they have reworked Michael Vick's contract to keep the quarterback in Philadelphia for at least one more year, according to the team's website.
Although Vick will still have to compete for the starting job, the surprising decision to keep him on the team in any capacity is new head coach Chip Kelly's first major mistake as he attempts to rebuild the Birds into a contender.
I say this not because Vick will be turning 33 before the start of next season, nor because the constant battering he has received behind center has resulted in serious injuries that have caused him to miss 11 games in the last three seasons.
I say this not because Vick no longer has the foot speed that once allowed him to elude elite pass rushers with ease.
I say this not because Vick has become a veritable turnover machine, giving up 30 interceptions and 12 fumbles in 35 games over the last three seasons.
And I say this not because Vick has trouble reading defenses and holds onto the ball way too long in an often vain attempt to make plays.
No, there is a much more compelling, yet frequently overlooked, reason why Vick should have been jettisoned by Kelly, rather than be kept on for yet another season: his total lack of leadership.
No one can argue that Vick doesn't still possess a strong arm and a certain degree of mental and physical toughness. But at the end of the day, he has consistently failed to inspire his teammates through his own actions and words. Great quarterbacks elevate those around them and bring out their best. Just look at Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers and Drew Brees. They stand tall and proud at the line of scrimmage -- field generals barking commands to their loyal foot soldiers, who respond by giving tremendous effort and making amazing plays.
Can anyone honestly say that Vick has done anything close to this as leader of the Eagles offense? Quite the contrary. Remember the "secret" players' meeting Vick called to try to clear the air and turn things around last year? It turned out to be a total joke, after which nothing improved. In fact, things actually seemed to get worse on the field. Vick even went as far as calling his teammates "quitters" at the end of the abysmal 2012 season. And while there is certainly some truth to his remarks, how does publicly calling out your teammates inspire them to perform better for you? It doesn't.
The bottom line is, Michael Vick may still be a great athlete, but his body language, facial expressions, and demeanor on and off the field are those of a man who is beaten and (at least subconsciously) resigned to failure. Despite his many acts of contrition, he may still feel ashamed for the infamous behavior that landed him in prison. And he probably does have some legitimate gripes about the way some of his teammates gave up on him last season. But he never has been and never will be a real leader, the kind who can inspire the men around him to greatness. And that means he should have no place potentially leading a team that Chip Kelly wants to succeed and win big in the NFL.
Gary Strassberg has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He has worked for the E.W. Scripps Company, The Nielsen Company, and other media outlets. Follow Gary on Twitter: @GaryStrassberg
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Michael Vick
- Chip Kelly