UPDATE: As expected, Vick and the league have both denied today that the commissioner or the league steered Vick towards Philadelphia. You can decide for yourself. Was it a moment of honesty in Vick's GQ interview that both sides want to deny a day later, or did Vick simply misspeak and imply something that didn't happen?
Collusion is bad. I don't want the NFL to be a place where the league decides what players go where, because it suits their purposes. Teams should build their rosters according to the capabilities of their own scouting staffs and talent evaluators.
So if what Michael Vick said happened -- that the league urged him to sign with Philadelphia and not Cincinnati or Buffalo -- really happened, then the league overstepped its bounds, and it's got some serious explaining to do to the Bills and Bengals organizations.
However, in this particular case, I think there's a devil's advocate argument to be made for what the league did. It was a super-unique situation that certainly introduced some shades of gray into the equation. If anti-collusion is the rule, is it not possible that some situation out there might merit an exception?
Rewind to 2009. You're Roger Goodell. You've got a player coming back into the league who is public relations thermite. With the previously unseen level of attention (and yes, hatred) aimed at him, his presence puts everyone in a dangerous position. If he makes one significant misstep, he, the team he plays for, and the entire league is under fire from every mainstream media source in the country.
On top of that, there's the "right thing to do" aspect. Michael Vick has pretty clearly demonstrated that he's not always going to make the best decisions in regard to who he surrounds himself with. If you're in a position to do so, don't you have some kind of responsibility to put him in a situation where he's going to be supported and given proper guidance?
And if you do, wouldn't it be the responsible thing to do to guide Vick away from Cincinnati and Buffalo? More Cincinnati than Buffalo, really. Neither is known as a cradle of player development, but do you really want Bengals owner Mike Brown to be the one guiding Michael Vick's life choices? You've got a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback there right now, and he'd rather retire from football entirely than play another down for that travesty of an organization.
That's where you want Vick? You want him sharing a locker room with Pacman Jones?
Or, you can steer him to the Eagles where the depth chart alone means that he'll be out of the spotlight for a little while. He's in one of the NFL's most stable organizations, playing for a coach who develops quarterbacks. If Vick was going to return to stardom, the process would be slow, and he wouldn't have to deal with the pressures of having to resurrect a team or being the face of anyone's franchise.
The league did something (and for the record, the league has yet to respond to Vick's claim, and I'm sure it'll deny steering any player toward any organization) that makes sense. As it's turned out, it was best for pretty much everyone involved. Maybe not the Bills or Bengals, but who knows what would have become of Vick had he gone to either of those teams?
Meanwhile, Vick has seemed to be on the right track, the league has another superstar, and because of the way Vick (and whoever else was helping steer the ship) handled his comeback, the league is a better, more interesting place.