During his five years with the Eagles, the controversy surrounding Vick appeared to die down. In 2009, he was a pariah, fresh out of prison. By the end of the 2013 season, he was viewed, in Philadelphia at least, as an elder statesman who graciously facilitated Nick Foles' assumption of the starting QB role.
In 2013, Michael Vick again was at the top of Forbes magazine's survey of most-disliked NFL players.
Vick talked about that last week, on the day he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers in the Eagles' practice facility.
“My thing was always to try to make amends for the things that I’ve done,” Vick said. “Time heals all wounds. Some people are going to forgive you, some people aren’t. My goal was just trying to get people believing through my actions -- the good things I was able to do. That’s all I ever wanted. Now that things have taken a turn for the better, I want to keep that momentum.”
Recent events suggest it might not be that simple. With Vick approaching free agency, the dormant anger about his dogfighting past appears to be active again.
First came the Times piece, in which writer Juliet Macur urged NFL owners not to employ Vick.
“Teams evaluating Vick should think about those horrors (involving dogs) before offering him a chance to wear their jersey,” Macur wrote. “They should say, 'Can’t we give our fans someone better to cheer for?’ Fans should demand someone better.”
Next came Vick’s Twitter endorsement of QuiBids, an online auction site. After Vick’s tweet appeared, angry users voiced their displeasure on QuiBids’ Facebook page. The company responded by severing ties with Vick and promising to make a donation to the ASPCA.
This week, a self-published book appeared, claiming to be the story of Vick’s longtime affair with a stripper who wrote under the pseudonym Bella Escritor. If nothing else, the book is sure to cause some turmoil in Vick’s personal life. He was married in 2012 to Kijafa Frink.
None of these incidents by themselves would likely affect Vick’s chances to find another NFL home. But the cumulative effect could scare off an owner, coach or general manager leery of inviting distraction and controversy into the locker room.
Vick was lucky to find the perfect alignment of those principals in 2009. Eagles head coach Andy Reid was committed to giving Vick a second chance, and he persuaded owner Jeff Lurie and team president Joe Banner to sign Vick. The Eagles weathered the original firestorm of criticism, and Vick wound up being their starting quarterback by the 2010 season.
There will be fans who always resent the Eagles for signing Vick, but he won over many people during his tenure with the team. Nevertheless, during the 2013 season, Vick again finished at the top of Forbes magazine’s survey of most-disliked NFL players. Clearly, Vick remains in disfavor with a segment of the public.
Will that keep him from moving on to another team? It will be fascinating to find out.