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.