Vick Debate: Too talented to ignore

He's dazzling. He's electric. He...was just in jail for a horrific crime. The Bills have been mentioned as a possible destination for embattled quarterback Michael Vick. In Part I, BFR's Adam Beilman says Buffalo should roll the dice on Vick's out-of-this-world talent...

The Bills' noisiest offseason in recent memory has included two Hall-of-Fame inductions, three arrests (four if you include one of the aforementioned inductees), a suspension for the starting tailback, a draft that should produce at least 3 starters, and of course, the signing of the second-highest scoring (and first most disruptive) receiver of all time in Terrell Owens.

Why not make one more splash?

With Marv Levy's "nice-guy" team image out the window, the Bills may be well served to sign one of the only more controversial sports figures than T.O: shamed and recently incarcerated Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Unless you've been living under a rock (or just not watching ESPN) for the last 24 months, you are well aware of the former number one overall pick's legal troubles. His sponsorship of and participation in an illegal dog-fighting ring didn't make him any new friends in PETA, but did earn him a year-long vacation at Leavenworth Prison in Kansas.

Vick's arrest left the Falcons without a franchise player and otherwise in shambles. The comedy of errors that ensued in Atlanta included quarterbacking appearances by Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich and a 13-game coaching debacle by Bobby Petrino, who bolted to the NCAA at first opportunity.

So why would it be worthwhile to risk what's left of the team's reputation and chemistry on Michael Vick? Because, in the end, he's still one of the most talented football players on earth.

In 2006, his last season in the NFL, Vick threw 20 touchdowns to only 13 interceptions, despite his reputation as a below-average passer. He also rushed for 1,039 yards, with an 8.4 yards per carry average. In fact, for his career Vick has 71 TDs to 52 INTs, with a quarterback rating of 75.7.

Vick has probably lost some of the accuracy he worked to develop since his last NFL stint, but if signed by the Bills he wouldn't be asked to start at quarterback. Vick is a pure athlete that could line up anywhere on the offensive side of the ball: under center, as a halfback or wideout, or even in the shotgun at the helm of the suddenly popular wildcat offense.

Vick's presence anywhere in the backfield would force defenses to bring an eighth man into the box, and with the ball in his hands he'd have the option to make the defenders look stupid by running circles around them, or bombing the ball deep to either Lee Evans or T.O. A Trent Edwards-to-Vick play action fake would garner the attention of not only the secondary, but probably the entire stadium, wondering if No. 7 was getting the ball.

The rest of the AFC East is getting better. Buffalo needs to take the lead, rather than just try to keep up. Tom Brady is back with the Patriots, and coach Belichick and his hoodie will be back with a vengeance after missing the playoffs, which many would argue was unjust. The Dolphins' wacky offense isn't getting any worse with Pat White adding an extra wrinkle to their patented wildcat, and Jason Taylor rejoins an already intimidating pass rush. The Jets' offense may take one step back at quarterback between Kellen Clemens and rookie Mark Sanchez, but will probably take two steps forward with a defense under the influence of new coach Rex Ryan.

Signing Michael Vick would only make the Bills more relevant, after miring in obscurity since the Music City Miracle ten years ago. Aside from how scary the Bills' offense would be (something I never thought I'd have to say), there would be the added benefit of energizing the fan base even more. T.O. may not be enough to mobilize the lukewarm American football fans in Ontario, but the ratings for his reality show would certainly go through the roof with a co-starring role for Vick.

Sure, PETA wouldn't be happy with Russ Brandon and the gang, but a few protestors won't deter the die-hards that fill the parking lots at Ralph Wilson Stadium at 8 a.m. on game days. Buffalo is a blue-collar town whose residents probably believe in second chances more than almost anywhere else in the nation. The latté-sipping, sweater-wearing, tree-hugging population is rather miniscule in Western New York, and would be drowned out by the cheers emanating from the Ralph following what would be the loudest off-season in Bills history.

adam.beilman@gmail.com


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