A handful of good games and fine finishes emerged from yesterday’s National Football League schedule of events. But two snapshots have staying power.
This is about two men, two quarterbacks. The first kneeled on the sideline, head bowed, his disbelieving eyes toward the turf, wondering how things got so bad so fast. What more can go wrong?
The other quarterback bounded from the tunnel, head, spirit and confidence up, up, up, eyes toward the heavens, offering thanks and no doubt wondering if things could get any better. What more could go right? It isn’t every day, after all, that the ex-con becomes the conquering hero. It isn’t every day that Leavenworth creates a leader.
The sports world is rife with predictions of who’ll win and who’ll wilt, of who’ll flourish and who’ll flop. Even so, no statistical analysis, no talking head could’ve predicted this for Brett Favre and Michael Vick.
Remember when three Minnesota Vikings veterans visited Favre at his Mississippi home, selling the graybeard on the notion of one more season, of football and fun and saying goodbye from the game with a parade? It was about the perfect ending for Favre and the Vikings, who came oh-so close last season before the old gunslinger gaffed against the New Orleans Saints.
“This has got me at a loss for words,” the 41-year-old Favre said after his three wins and seven-loss Vikings were shellacked by his former team, the Packers, 31-3, before the home folks sporting purple jerseys and perplexed faces. “I would never have expected to be in this position.”
A Better Person
Ditto for Vick, who joined the Philadelphia Eagles last season as the backup to the backup. And then Donovan McNabb, who lobbied to give Vick a second chance, was traded. And then Kevin Kolb got hurt. And just like that the Eagles belonged to Vick, who, as I’ve noted before, is a better person, quarterback and teammate then he was before a dog fighting conviction sent him to prison.
Vick, the inmate, would pray that something, anything, would expedite his release. Nothing did. Prison taught patience, which is obvious when Vick waits, waits, waits and flings instead of flees a collapsing pocket.
Vick in an interview with NBC, which televised last night’s 27-17 win over the New York Giants, copped to having cheated his former team, the Atlanta Falcons, and having cheated himself. He won’t dwell on what could’ve been, though, not with what may be out there.
“I didn’t give them my all. I gave them everything on the field, but sometimes that’s not enough,” Vick said. “This time around, I just wanted to work harder than I ever worked before, not shortchange myself. I didn’t dedicate myself the way I do now.”
It’s an admission that in all likelihood applies to more professional athletes than customers paying big bucks for tickets want to know.
The game is won on the field, yes, but it’s also determined in the film room, the weight room and on the practice field. Vick knows that. Now, anyway. It took prison to make him a professional out of him.
Favre did some speaking, too.
He uttered something about re-evaluation, which he didn’t explain. He talked about the playoffs, mathematical possibilities and hanging on to hope. It wasn’t supposed to be this way for Favre and the Vikings, hyped by so many as Super Bowl contenders. And yet there kneeled Favre, flummoxed.
As for Vick, whose Eagles sit atop the NFC East, last night was far from perfect.
No touchdown passes, although, in fairness, Jason Avant did drop a gimme in the end zone. And Vick did run for a score. The Giants, meantime, committed five turnovers, including a key late-game giveaway in which quarterback Eli Manning dropped the ball while diving head first instead of sliding, which, by rule, would’ve negated any butterfingers.
“We had to be resilient,” said Vick, who, speaking of lost fumbles, committed his first turnover in five games. Vick was superhuman last week against Washington, throwing four touchdown passes and running for another two. An aberration, he said.
“It’s a crazy game,” Vick said. “I’m just going to continue to chase success, on and off the field. If I do that, redemption will come.”
Redemption for Vick. Regret from Favre.
Both were on display yesterday.
(Scott Soshnick is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)