“If he pays his debt to society, why shouldn’t he get another chance?” asked Wolf, who was the engineer of Green Bay’s Super Bowl championship team in the 1996 season. “Maybe I don’t understand something in all of this, but you’re supposed to get a second chance in this country.”
However, according to interviews with several NFL executives, Wolf is in the minority. Four other general managers and/or other personnel executives said they thought a return by Vick would be problematic.
“Yeah, that’s true, but it’s a different time, a different place, a different set of circumstances,” said a general manager who asked not to be identified. On Monday, Vick’s attorney Billy Martin announced that the quarterback will plead guilty to federal dogfighting conspiracy charges. Conditions of the terms are unknown, but Vick faces up to five years in prison.
The most damning evidence made public against Vick came Friday when co-defendants Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips also pleaded guilty. In their plea, Peace and Phillips admitted to killing eight dogs in April at Vick’s property in Virginia and said that Vick participated in the death of the animals. The animals were destroyed because they failed to perform well enough in testing to see if they were “game” enough to be good fighters.
The Vick issue is layered with questions, such as how long he might serve in prison, how long the NFL will suspend him once he officially enters his plea Aug. 27 and whether the Falcons will go after approximately $28 million the team paid him in bonus money.
Still, the bottom line comes down to whether he’ll get another chance. Adding to the complexity of the situation, said one general manager, is that Vick plays quarterback. Will some NFL team ever want a convicted animal killer and liar to be the face of a franchise?
“You’re not talking about just anybody on your football team,” the GM said. “You’re talking about the leader of your team, the most recognizable player on your team, the guy who you normally market the team around and try to get the fans excited about.
“Do you really think you’re ever going to be able to get people to put their arms around that guy again? Maybe, but I don’t think I’d be able to pull it off. We’re not talking about just football here. We’re talking about marketing, profile, what your sponsors think.”
At the same time, Wolf contended that crime is crime and that other players have been found guilty of activities seemingly just as serious.
“We’ve had a lot of people in this league do a lot of bad things, and they still got a chance,” Wolf said. “Leonard Little killed someone (while drunk driving). Jamal Lewis went to prison (in connection to) selling drugs. Are you telling me that killing eight dogs is worse than killing a human being? … Yes, this is bad, but are you really telling me that he doesn’t deserve a chance to play again when other people have committed crimes and come back?”
Oakland managing general partner Al Davis and Dallas owner Jerry Jones were among those mentioned as owners who might take a chance on Vick if and when Atlanta lets him go.
The additional issue with Vick is that well before he got in trouble, there were concerns about whether he could become a polished quarterback. Atlanta hired coach Bobby Petrino this offseason with the goal of concluding if Vick ever would harness his impressive talent.
“The fact that he’s only 27 and he’s still going to be a great athlete in a year or two is going to help him, but now he’s behind for two years,” the GM said. “I wasn’t sure how good a quarterback he was before. What’s he going to be in two years?”
Prescription: This situation is more than a scandal it’s a PR crisis on fire. The real question is IF he even wants to come back, and if and when this thing plays out, what would his options be? Is there a way he can use the media to stage a comeback that would redeem him with fans, the league, animal lovers, the general public and more importantly, the advertisers?
While it is oh, so true that there have been others who have committed worse crimes, there is always “one” the media does not forgive. Being African American may might not help the situation either. The media forgave Kobe Bryant and that may have met the “forgiven athlete” quota. There is no scientific methodology to prove it, but it’s true.
This may end up being, just another “hot” scandal that plays out in the news cycle, one that is easily forgotten until a similar case arises. For example, the next wrestler who is accused of steroid use will probably be compared to Chris Benoit because Chris, and the next publicized user of steroids won’t be the last. This crime, although common is unusual and horrific to mainstream America. Drug use, physical and domestic abuse and other related crimes are things we have become desensitized to. There just have not been enough reformed, animal abuser athletes to measure this case with, so it is pretty unimaginable that Vick could come back to Atlanta as the star he was.
The only thing that will determine if Vick can come back is time and a good publicist. Enough time needs to pass so that people vaguely remember what Vick did without being reminded by a news article. And, enough time for Vick to find the meanest, baddest publicist on the planet who will crush the critics, hush the naysayers and remind people that once you’ve paid your debt to society you should be able to come back.
The question would then be, comeback as what?
Commentator? One can’t really trust his opinion. Role model for kids? He would SEEM too dangerous. Spokesperson? A product is often considered as good as the image associated with it. An author? Probably. Everybody wants to wants to know the back story behind the spin.
I wonder if Vick knows any good publicists.
Click this link to read a great analysis and full article by Jason Cole: