I was out enjoying myself tonight. I really should've known better, given that every time I do that there's some awful news about the Falcons waiting for me when I get back. This news is by far the most damaging from a public relations perspective, but also a team perspective.
You see, Vick was indicted today.
What does this mean? I'll provide the answers to the best of my ability.
It means little from a perspective of guilt or innocence, except that there's enough evidence that authorities obviously think Vick is involved. It's also going to lob the guilt grenade into a lot of people's minds, and there's absolutely nothing Vick or the team can do about that. It also could very well mean that the face of the franchise could be suspended for...well, I can't even begin to guess. Four games? Eight games? A season? Goodell hasn't shied away from punishing big names thus far, and I don't think he's hypocritical enough to leave Vick out. This is a severe blow to this team's image.
That's severe stuff that's going to reverberate through this team's entire structure. Blank was already feeling the heat, and now he's going to be hearing even louder criticism of the way he's handled Vick. There's no way he can save face short of letting Vick go, which has fairly serious cap implications. For an owner who has painstakingly tried to construct a do-gooder team mentality, the cost might actually be worth it. It's much more likely that Blank will wait out the results of the trial, but Vick's image is forever tainted. If he had flashed the on-field skills everyone expected from him, he might be able to pull a Kobe Bryant and eventually salvage himself. Even if he's completely cleared of all charges (which is still possible), it's really too late. Vick, as a public persona, is completely doomed. Right now, he's dragging his owner and his team with him.
From a play perspective, the team is also going to suffer. I recognize that there are a lot of people out there who hate Vick, and a lot who apologize for him. I consider myself somewhere in the middle; I think he's a dynamic player who has played way too inconsistently to be considered a superstar. If he's suspended, however, the team only has Joey Harrington and unproven D.J. Shockley. Harrington has proven time and time again that he's not a quality QB. Even when he had better receivers than the Falcons currently possess, he was bad. I believe in Shockley, I really do, but no one thinks he's ready to start and make a huge impact right now. That leaves the Falcons little recourse but to chase someone like Daunte Culpepper, who might already be off the market if the team finds itself searching for a starter. Like it or not, the QB situation is much more grim without Vick than with him. The team has to be praying Vick won't be suspended, but I would rate the chance of that happening as virtually nil at this point. Unless Harrington puts it together or Shockley catches fire, the passing game is in trouble for the upcoming season.
So what is there to say, really? Simply by virtue of his association with dogfighting, Vick has screwed himself and screwed the Falcons. My heart dropped when I read the news, and as much as I'd like to put a happy face on it, I can't. The very best thing that could happen is that Vick is found innocent and he's only suspended for a few games, but that's still enough to cast a pall over him for the rest of his career. If he's found guilty of the charges he has been indicted for, the damage to his career could well be irreparable.
So there is a real chance that his career with the Falcons is, for all intents and purposes, over. I guess I can't really feel anything but sad about the way this has turned out. With his talent and his personality, Vick had the chance to be the greatest player we Falcons fans had ever seen. Most of us believed in him wholeheartedly at some point or another. Now that the chances of that seem slim, I can't help but ask where it all went wrong for Michael Vick.
That's one question I can't answer.
Update [2007-7-18 1:14:58 by Dave the Falconer]:: The AJC has an excellent rundown of the situation so far, which I highly recommend everyone read. The comments from the league make it sound like Vick may get a chance to play through the season, but I'm a little wary of reading too much into that. I'd also like to thank all my batterymates at SB Nation for not rubbing this in my face.