Michael Vick was the face of the Atlanta Falcons franchise, but his NFL career could suddenly be over because of his alleged involvement in dogfighting.
Assuming the Falcons would not welcome him back as their quarterback, Vick might have a hard time getting a second chance to play in the league. The team willing to give him that chance would have to endure a major public relations backlash for his alleged involvement in a blood sport.
Here are questions to consider regarding the quarterback's future on the field if he were to plead guilty to the charges against him:
What will the Falcons do? Atlanta owner Arthur Blank likely would not let a felon convicted of dogfighting run his team. The question is how Blank would handle Vick's exodus. Cutting him would be the easy thing to do, but terminating Vick's contract could disqualify the franchise from claiming more than $22 million of signing bonus proration.
Vick has three years left on his contract, including this season. If he is unable to play in any of those seasons because of legal action, the Falcons can make a legal case that he failed to fulfill his contract, then claim the annual $7.5 million of signing bonus proration. Vick signed a 10-year, $130 million contract, and the Falcons can't go back and get money he earned by playing. But it makes good business sense to go after the money he collected in signing bonus even if it means keeping him on the roster while he serves any prison sentence and a possible NFL suspension.
What are his chances of getting back into the NFL? Not good. It would take a general manager with a lot of wins on his résumé to go to his owner to suggest picking up Vick. An owner would have to endure the backlash. First, Vick would be a public relations nightmare. PETA would stage protests. There might be a backlash from season-ticket holders who could protest having a convicted dogfighter quarterbacking their team. Suite holders might want to drop their leases. Only general managers as strong as Bill Polian of the Colts or Ozzie Newsome of the Ravens would have the clout with their owners to make such a suggestion, but it's unlikely from a football and public relations sense that either would do it.
How desperate would a team have to be to take a chance on him? Aside from the public relations problems, a team taking Vick would have to reshape its offense. Vick has evolved into a quarterback who works better in a running offense, and teams are looking for passers, not runners. In the past three seasons, Vick has been part of the league's No. 1-ranked rushing team. Coaches and general managers know a good running team can get to eight or nine wins quickly, but it's hard for a running team to get over the hump and win playoff games. Running teams usually don't score more than 20 points a game unless the defense gets points on turnovers.
The other problem is Vick is left-handed. If a team has a great left tackle, the offensive line would have to switch around to protect Vick from blind-side sacks. Vick also has trouble getting into a rhythm with his receivers because he is so fast in his retreat from center.