It’s hard to label anything that involves Tony Dungy as a dog and pony show.
Considering Michael Vick’s’ felonious and well-documented transgressions, that’s probably not the way to describe what went on today in Philadelphia.
There is a lot not to like about the way the Raiders go about their dealings with both the public and the media, but to their credit, you would never have seen them propping themselves up as something virtuous simply for signing a quarterback who just got out of jail.
This isn’t to say Vick doesn’t deserve a second chance. He’s paid his debt and then some, and Vick sounds remorseful and said the right things.
But to hear Andy Reid, Jeffrey Lurie and, yes, even Dungy, talk about how it was more important to salvage Vick as a person than as a football player, was way over the top in terms of spin.
Vick was signed because the Eagles think $1.6 million is a gamble worth taking for a one-time explosive talent who could conceivably help win some games.
As long as he doesn’t get arrested, Vick’s tenure will be judged by how many games he helped the Eagles win. That rough Philly crowd? The first time Vick rips off a 60-yard run, they’ll be eating out of his hand. If Vick fumbles and throws interceptions, he’ll be the criminal that killed all those dogs and then lied about it.
Sorry, but I’ve seen this act before.
A decade ago, the 49ers, in need of a running back to pair with Charlie Garner following Garrison Hearst’s ankle surgery, signed Lawrence Phillips to a two-year contract worth $1.75 million. We won’t even go into Phillips’ rap sheet, suffice that he was nearly as dangerous to humans as Vick was to dogs.
The 49ers grimly recognized all Phillips’ issues, but decided to give him another chance.
“Our hope and our expectations are that his troubles are behind him . . . it’s something had to methodically research and then move forward to reach the agreement,” G.M. Bill Walsh said.
Dr. Harry Edwards, the team consultant, had inteviewed Phillips when he was drafted out of Nebraska and again before the 49ers signed him and said, “The difference between what I saw then and what I see now are substantial, and it was on that basis that I urged the 49ers to sign him.”
Edwards said Phillips now seemed inclined to accept authority.
Phillips, for his part, said he had been “humbled.”
The Tony Dungy in this case was Dick Vermeil, the man who drafted Phillips for the St. Louis Rams, later cut him, but helped convince Walsh it was a project worth taking on.
Why was it worth taking on?
Because the 49ers thought Phillips could help replace Hearst’s yardage. They were seduced by his talent and the potential for touchdowns.
Turns out, Phillips was still a bad guy, which he remains to this day as he sits in a California state prison after being found guilty on seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He also missed the block on Aeneas Williams that ended the career of Steve Young.
No one is saying Phillips is another Vick, but the truth is no one really knows how Vick will react. He’s being given a second chance because he is a gifted athlete, and the fact that the Eagles can take credit for rehabilitating a criminal and raising awareness of animal abuse if it all works out is merely an ancillary benefit.
The Eagles would have been better off saying, “Just win.”
I’ll check in later after Tom Cable’s conference call, scheduled for 5 p.m.