Free at Last?

By Justin Cherot

Up, down, up, down, left, right, left, right,  B, A, B, A, select, start.

If you’re an 80’s baby, you for sure know ALL about that.  Just in case you’re a little younger, a little older, or you actually have a life that doesn’t revolve around video games, the above is the famous Contra cheat code, the one that gave your guys infinite ammunition against abstract foes.  Sure, you could still get shot up and lose lives, but the chances of you beating the game dramatically increased.

Now that he's back, we'll see if Michael Vick can regain the form that made him the best player in [Madden] football history.  Photo courtesy Pro Athletes Only.

How good will Michael Vick be after such a long lay-off?

 

During the early 2000’s, if you played any kind of Madden on any console, you know that having Michael Vick on your team was the equivalent of that code, sort of like having LeBron James on NBA Live today (travel control included, Colin).  Playing against Vick?  An absolute nightmare, constantly having to worry about keeping a spy on him because his 99 speed was liable to hit the outside at any given moment. 

As far as Madden goes, Vick has to be hands-down the best player in the history of the game. 

On the field?  Well… “inconsistent” would be putting it mildly. 

Vick’s speed and agility ratings were definitely justified, as he ran circles around NFL defenses.  In fact, during his last full season in 2006, he broke the 1,000 yard threshold.  Yes, as a quarterback. 

But, while he’s never thrown more picks than TDs in a single season as the primary starter (we won’t count that rookie year when he made the occasional relief appearance for Chris Chandler), that completion percentage has been ugly.  His 52.6% accuracy would have put him dead last amongst NFL starters had he played last year.

So, fresh out of jail after a year and a half, fresh off home confinement, the former highest paid player in the game finds himself in a position that, if someone would have told him he’d be in four years ago he’d laugh hysterically.

He finds himself in a glorified unemployment line trying to convince teams that 1) he’s remorseful for his actions, 2) he’ll be able to shake the rust off quickly, and 3) he’s more than just an athletic freak show and deserving of a starting QB nod somewhere.

If I’m an NFL owner, I’d be willing to give Vick the benefit of the doubt for No.1 (strip club rumors aside; nobody’s perfect).  No.2 would be harder to sell me on, but as long as he doesn’t walk into my office at 400 pounds and doesn’t toss the “just like riding a bike” cliche at me, I’d buy it.

No.3?

Man… I’ve been going back and forth with this all day.  It probably doesn’t help that I watched The Dark Knight last night and have the thought of Harvey Dent constantly flipping that stupid coin during the last third of the movie.  But, I’ve come to this conclusion: Vick went to jail as a quarterback without an elite presence in the pocket but with world class athleticism.  Unless he attended two a days in the yard with a film session afterwards (did they even HAVE a yard where he was?), he comes out of jail having to re-introduce himself to the fundamentals, not to mention learn a new playbook wherever he ends up… and he might not have that same athletic ability. 

To say he has a lot going against him–without even fully going into detail about how 90% of the teams in the league won’t even touch him–is the understatement of the young century.

I think a lot of how he comes out of the gates is going to depend on who signs him.  The rumor du jour has him linked to the New England Patriots (no pun intended…give it a minute, you’ll get it).  If he goes there, he becomes the Greased-Up Deaf Guy from Family Guy: great in spots, but he’s not one of those guys who can be in every episode or have his own spin-off, because Tom Brady (Peter Griffin) is untouchable (and no, Randy Moss is not Cleveland).

If he goes to a team where he can realistically compete for a starting job, like Detroit, Oakland(!!!), or San Francisco, then I think he has a better chance to re-invent himself.  Truthfully, he’s not beating out anybody this year, not when he’s fresh out of the pen and barred from a single meaningful snap until Week 6 (which I have mixed feelings about).  And, it remains to be seen if he still has the type of talent that you basically have to build around him. 

There’s only one thing I do know for sure: Michael Vick is back.  I’ll take the over on his speed being 90 once Madden ’10 hits the stands. 

Okay, Brett.  Your turn, buddy.

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