ESPN 30 for 30: Michael Vick, takeaways from part one

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Former Atlanta Falcons player Michael Vick walks on the field prior to the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Former Atlanta Falcons player Michael Vick walks on the field prior to the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Part one of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary about Michael Vick aired Thursday night detailing Michael Vick’s life from boyhood to his time with the Atlanta Falcons.

While the dogfighting itself is a big part of Michael Vick‘s career, we don’t see that side of him yet. We get a taste of what is to come towards the end but this side of Vick is saved for next Thursday night.

The main takeaway from part one of this series is accountability.

Starting from a young age, Michael Vick was hailed as the Allen Iverson of football in his hometown. Both athletes came from the same neighborhood, Newport News, Virginia.

Growing up in poverty and in the projects really put a burden on Vick to take care of his friends and family. We were shown how this burden affected his preparation and how the lack of accountability from his parents, coaches, and friends hurt him in the end.

Vick had chances to go to other big-name Division I schools but simply choose Virginia Tech because it was close to home, which would also hinder his time while at Virginia Tech.

During his freshman season, in which he spent the entirety as a redshirt, Vick went home as much as he could because he felt the need to still have to keep his house in check. This is also where his Quanis Phillips really starts to latch himself to Michael Vick’s career.

Following Vick back to Blacksburg after a visit, Phillips essentially lived with Vick and reaped all the benefits of Vick’s success. Phillips will soon be known to have a large influence in the dogfighting ring at Vick’s property.

The burden that Vick carried and the lack of preparation for games forced him to rely simply on his instincts. Vick detailed that once the ball was snapped, his mind would go blank but his body would just play.

However, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer placed Michael Vick in an offense that didn’t tailor to his style of play. Beamer ran a pro-style offense and sprinkled in a few options and quarterback design run plays to get Vick in space. Simply put, Michael Vick is not a pro-style quarterback.

Vick’s athletic ability alone carried Virginia Tech, who just 10 years prior was strapped for cash and had given up a home game to Florida State simply for money. So their rise to prominence in 1999 was the shock of the nation.

After bringing Virginia Tech back from a 21 point deficit, Vick had the Hokies ahead by one point going into the fourth. However, his efforts to bring his team back ultimately gassed him as he just couldn’t do anything in the fourth and FSU pulled away in the end. This was the only loss as a starter in Vick’s collegiate career.

FSU head coach Bobby Bowden said that in 10 years, colleges will have more guys who play just like Michael Vick. Bowden wasn’t wrong as Vick inspired a brand new generation of black quarterbacks who would transcend the game.

In the 2000 season, Vick got hurt against Pitt and had to exit the game. Pitt won and knocked Virginia Tech out of title contention. Michael Vick declared for the NFL at seasons end at a press conference at his local Boys and Girls Club in Newport News.

The Atlanta Falcons traded up to the number one spot in the 2001 NFL Draft from the San Diego Chargers. The Falcons didn’t want to pass up a chance on a generational talent. He was the first-ever black quarterback taken number one overall. Throughout his entire playing career, Vick has faced the same racial ridicule that came with being a black quarterback.

Once Vick came to Atlanta, the black community galvanized around him as the next great black athlete in Atlanta. While he and his family were expecting to go number one to San Diego, Vick was happy that Atlanta traded up. This kept him closer to home than he anticipated.

Now that Michael Vick made it big time, he brought all of his close family and some friends to Atlanta with him. Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves tried to reach out to Vick and make sure he was aware of the people he chose to hang around and to make sure that he is with people who have his best interest in mind.

Reeves even went as far as to call Quanis Phillips, Michael Vick’s cousin, to plea to him that Vick doesn’t need to be in situations that can hurt his status as a Falcon.

After having a solid first and second year, Vick’s third season ended before it began. A broken leg in the preseason forced Vick to miss most of the season and Dan Reeves was fired by first-year owner Arthur Blank, specifically for playing Vick in the preseason.

In 2004, Michael Vick got a new contract extension. 2004 was by far Michael Vick’s best season in his entire career, even with his time in Philadelphia. The 2005 NFC Championship was the first time ever two black quarterbacks faced off – Michael Vick vs Donovan McNabb.

During Vick’s rookie season, he bought a house in Surry, Virginia to be away from everyone. This new house was only 30 miles from Newport News. He would fly back and forth between Atlanta and Surry multiple times a week.

Brian Finneran – former Falcons receiver from 2000-2010 – discussed that he would try to reach out to Vick and try to watch Monday night football to prepare for the next week but Vick was too preoccupied with his home in Virginia and his social life.

Former University of Georgia quarterback and Michael Vick back-up in 2006, DJ Shockley, detailed that he was inspired by Michael Vick growing up and modeled his game after him. Once he got to Atlanta, he began to take notice of the lack of preparation the Vick has and questioned how he can perform at a high level without studying and preparing.

Shockley even went on to say that coaches coached Michael Vick differently because if they were too hard and angered him, they risked losing their jobs. Coaches just wanted Vick happy and healthy to play.

This again falls back on the lack of accountability for his actions. As a coach, teammate, and family member, it has to be alarming when your quarterback is spending more time in Virginia than Atlanta.

Head coach Jim Mora Jr. admitted that he regrets not holding Vick more accountable.

At the time, the Falcons would have Mondays off if they won on the previous Sunday. This means that sometimes, Vick would spend half of the week in Virginia. You cannot prepare for the following game when you’re constantly distracted by friends and partying 3 states away.

The house was consistently filled with friends of friends. Simply a get-away for Vick and his Newport News friends.

When Michael Vick brought his financial advisor to his house in Surry, it was made apparent that Vick had no control over his friends and his flow of money. Vick was aware that both legal and illegal things were going on while he was away in Atlanta.

Numerous complaints from friends and law enforcement brought notice to the house. His aunt would receive numerous calls of people expressing their concern about what is going on over there.

Quanis Phillips discussed that they loved dogs. That they were dog people. Then they started clearing off the land on the property and building numerous kennels to house dogs.

2006 was a rough year for Vick. One of his worst seasons all time and one that truly questioned whether he was truly a starting quarterback or not. Even if the dogfighting never happened, it is fair to say that this would’ve been the final season for Vick in Atlanta.

Michael Vick ended the season barely over 50% passing and less than 2500 passing yards.

Not only were fans questioning if Vick truly can be a quarterback but Vick was also questioning if Atlanta is even right for him anymore. He didn’t even think the coordinator was right for him. He wanted to more than what the coaches were giving him.

One of the defining moments of 2006 was when Vick gave the middle finger to an opposing Saints fan as he was walking off the field. He was chastised by fans for it and never recovered after that. Vick no admits that he was out of control and wished someone would have stepped up and told him to get his act together.

One of the biggest takeaways from part one was how every male role model in his life failed him.

Michael Vick’s aunt really shows how deep and out of control Vick was when she mentions that people would give up on their Newport News life and move in with Vick because he would take care of them.

In our current timeline, the dogfighting scandal paved the way for the Falcons to draft a new franchise quarterback in 2008 in Matt Ryan. Maybe the Falcons are forced to draft Matt Ryan anyways once Vick forces his way out of Atlanta.

Next. Championship window closed in 2012. dark

The second half of this ESPN 30 for 30 documentaries will air next Thursday at 9 pm EST on ESPN. Part two will highlight the dogfighting scandal and his time during and after prison.