Love him or hate him, you can't argue the fact that Michael Vick is one of the most controversial athletes of the past decade. His reputation precedes him, in the worst way. The twelfth year pro comes with his share of baggage as he pleaded guilty to dog fighting charges back in April of 2007 and served 23 months in federal prison.
Vick lost millions of dollars in endorsement deals and more importantly the respect and admiration of millions of fans around the world. With animal activists infuriated by the dogfighting ring that was orchestrated at his home in Surry County, Virginia, the former Atlanta Falcon star saw his pro career and time in the limelight come to a crashing halt.
After serving out his suspension from the NFL, Vick was eventually traded from the Falcons to the Philadelphia Eagles with a chance to resurrect his career and somewhat restore his reputation. Vick played sparingly behind starter Donovan McNabb during the 2009 season, but was thrust back into the starting lineup once McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins and second-stringer Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion in the season opener.
No. 7 led Philadelphia to a 10-6 regular season record and Wildcard playoff berth where it fell to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. The Eagles missed out on the playoffs the next two seasons as Vick struggled to stay healthy and the team failed to live up to lofty expectations. During the 2013 campaign nagging injuries and the emergence of second year quarterback Nick Foles spelled the end of Vick's career in the City of Brotherly Love.
With the New York Jets in search of a veteran signal-caller to compete with young starter Geno Smith, Gang Green inked the veteran to a one-year, $5 million contract during free agency. Vick hasn't concealed the fact that he has his sights set on the starter job, but the real question is how good of a mentor can he really be with such a checkered past and questionable character traits?
This is the million dollar question that is dividing the Jets' fan base and causing some die-hards to change their allegiance to another team. Vick's past still haunts him, whether he admits it to reporters or not it will be a part of his legacy. The good, the bad and the ugly. The veteran showed tremendous maturity not forcing his way out of Philadelphia; instead accepting a backup role last season. With yet another quarterback soap opera underway in the Big Apple, it's unlikely that a player with the competitive spirit and edge like Vick will be content riding the bench for another year.
As a football player, Vick is one of the most exciting and electric talents the league has to offer. As a person, Vick's character and integrity have often been brought into question. Now head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik must ask themselves whether they're prepared to make Vick the face of their franchise; a face that was locked in a jail for a viscous and heinous act. The NFL is chock full of questionable characters, but where do Jets fans draw a line in the sand?
If Vick upstages Smith in their training camp battle this summer as many expect, fans may finally get what they've been longing for--a bona fide quarterback--but it will come at a hefty price. It's already proving difficult for many loyal Jets fans to root for a player with more ghosts in his closet than playoff wins in his pocket.