Friday, April 3, 2009

The Case for Signing Vick

I love to consider the contrarian view and believe strongly in the notion that good opportunities are often found at the point, away from which, the masses are uniformly stampeding. The trick, of course, is not to simply contradict the prevailing wisdom but to discern why it should be contradicted and how to optimally implement your contradictory plan.

Let's look at the point from which the NFL owners are currently stampeding. It is Michael Vick. Convicted felon. Tortured Dogs. Bad human being. Never proved himself as an NFL passer. Been out of the league for 2+ years. Baggage. Disruption. Bad press to all who associate with him. Run away.

The NFL team owners may well indeed all run away. A bankruptcy judge tossed Vick out of court yesterday because his solvency plan, which included a hefty NFL salary, was too uncertain. The judge, no doubt, had taken into consideration the hegemonic opinion that Vick brings too much bad press for any NFL team owner to consider signing him.

But I think the owners may be overlooking a gem. Vick is an extraordinary athlete and only 28 years old. While I don't think he is a good candidate to come in and take over the most intensely judgment-oriented position in all of pro sports (NFL QB), I do think it highly plausible that his speed and running skills are intact. As such, he could likely contribute meaningfully as a special teams player.

An NFL team is a business and the owners run these businesses to make money. Winning is the most well-proven (and probably most enjoyable) strategy for profitability but there are other approaches. Certainly filling the stadium and selling merchandise help the bottom line and for those, the more press the better. As the old cliche goes, all press is good press -- Vick WILL be a news story if he returns to the NFL. Sure, most of the news will be negative but the effect can be clearly predicted, people will want to watch.

A gutsy owner could seize on the fact that Vick would be the most motivated guy in the league to rebuild his reputation and his life through a strong and productive social presence. Said gutsy owner could help him do that. He could give him an incentive laden salary of up to $2M (being cognizant of the salary cap situation) and require Vick to donate 50% of his net income to charities that the team supports. The owner could require Vick to participate heavily in community goodwill programs at the behest of the team, even in (especially in) the off-season.

A roster spot is a valuable commodity that should not be wasted solely to garner PR. Therefore, Vick would need to work intensively on his kick return and special team skills (a player type increasingly sought in the Devon Hester era). If two years in prison has taken too great a toll and he can no longer compete at the NFL level, then he could be cut and replaced with a better talent. However, if his athleticism allows him to contribute, he could be a PR boon and an overall success story.

Remember, the stars have the furthest to fall but it is the most downtrodden who can rise most dramatically. Based on the depths to which he has sunk, Vick has the potential for a spectacular turn around.


  1. Jeff Ryer4/04/2009

    Michael Vick, another sad story from the sports world that has taken up so much of our time and attention. We glorify these guys and cut them so much slack. Why ? Forget about him and move on. NFL should have come out a long time ago and said he is DONE and never mention his name again. Set the expectations high and the best will rise up to meet them. The NHL, like the NFL and NBA, continues to amaze me with their lack of nerve to stand up and enforce some standard of moral fortitude. For instance, in October 2007 Patrice Bergeron, a star center for the Boston Bruins was hit into the boards from behind and received a broken nose and Grade III concussion that put him out for the remainder of the season. The culprit was Randy Jones from the Philadelphia Flyers (one of the Bruins arch enemies) The video was replayed hundreds of times in Boston and it is quite clear that Jones meant to harm Bergeron by virtue of placing his forearm up to Bergeron's back - leaving the ice -and thus forcing Bergeron's head into the glass, where it then shattered. A forceful and brutal attack was initiated and the NHL hands down a measley 2 game suspension to Randy Jones. Many people, including several NHL players stated that he should be suspended for the year and possibly thrown out of hockey for good. I say send him away and set higher expectation, you will get them

  2. Anonymous4/04/2009

    Aren't there enough athletes around that you don't have to compromise your ethics to get this one guy? Is winning so important that you'd be willing to trust that this athlete is a redeemable human being? Its possible it would be a good move- but I would not give him the chance.
    I'm guessing you would hire JR Ewing to run your company then...good luck.. you might win but at what cost to humanity? JD

  3. Unbelievable. Another complete swing and miss by this JD fellow (who is turning out to be our most ardent reader). He asks "Is winning so important that you'd be willing to...blah blah blah". The whole post was about running a business, not about winning. It was also not about being moral which is a much better line of attack for those who are looking to make a point.

  4. Jeff Ryer4/04/2009

    The Red Sox fill Fenway park not just because they win, I remember when they did not do that very well. They fill it because they have built an institution that transcends the individual vs the much ballyhooed Yankees. Good bye Manny you were a pain in the ass. So my post was about running a business, not just a moral position. I can only hope that our country can get past its fascination with celebrity style fools, and get in touch with some real heroes for a change. It is my belief that at some point ( maybe this recession is the catalyst for change) we will patronize those businesses that have some moral compass. The company that pays it CEO $32MM while laying off 100 people is a testament to that obscenity. Why not $22 MM and the other $10mm could go toward retaining those 100 positions. I am a capitalist, but these companies do little to impress me.

  5. Anonymous4/04/2009

    ok then I'll play your "game" your business....isn't there enough talent in the world that you don't have to stoop to this level? You can't find someone else that will bring as much value to the organization, that has morals? JD

  6. I'm just waiting for some commenter to at least foul one off here - you guys are swinging and missing by a mile. The point is that Vick brings PRESS and PRESS can drive MONEY and MOENY is what businesses seek to earn. My post was not about morals or talent or winning which are all good topics to discuss but I didn't discuss them. You are all free to discuss them but please recognize that I didn't. I may, but i didn't.

  7. Anonymous4/04/2009

    Ok ok--
    I quote : "Vick brings Press and Press can drive money" etc etc. Is money so important via the press that you will receive, that you can't think of another way to make that money, that still would be moralistic? You cannot talk about Vick without bringing up his most recent history-- that's why he is bringing the press. Say what you will about not bringing up morals, but you brought up Vick and you also mentioned in your post Convicted felon. Tortured Dogs. Bad human being. . If he was just a football player that didn't do anything wrong or say anything wrong, you would not get the level of press you are espousing. You sound like Jerry Jones -- are you? You're just a Cowboys fan aren't you? Happy Saturday night..

  8. Anonymous4/04/2009

    and you're probably a Rolling Stones fan too.

  9. Stones....a perfect example of how negative press translates into money. Again, I'm not condoning immorality, merely observing the correlation.