The other cleat is bound to drop in the near future. Vick will either be punished by the league or he'll get a stay of execution, but either way it's going to be a very nerve wracking week or two for Falcons fans. It doesn't help that the media is going to ride this story like a train all the way into the season; I fully expect to see someone on the Cooking Channel vigorously chopping carrots and crucifying Vick at the same time. As someone who more or less has to talk about this, I have a pretty simple message that we can hopefully all remember: hang in there. We Falcons fans have been through a lot over the years, and as rough as it is to see our star QB accused of heinous crimes and our team's name all over the evening news, we'll keep chugging along. I'm not so sure we can say the same about Vick.
That leads me into my next topic of discussion. The league is sure to weigh in with a punishment at some point, but I'm more interested in what the Falcons are going to do with Vick. As I see it, they essentially have four options. In order of least to most severe:
#1- Pretend nothing is wrong and go into the season with Vick as the starter: This might be a more likely move than some think, even though it would be public relations suicide. Vick is still the team's best option on the field, and the team can point to the fact that he hasn't been convicted of anything yet. This would be widely pilloried by the media and met with criticism from a lot of fans, but I'd say this would have a good chance if Blank was absolutely confident in Vick. Given that his team's image is currently shaken and Vick's marketing potential has never been lower, I doubt that confidence is really there. Still, the team will likely at least consider proceeding this way until the league--or the law--makes it more difficult to do so.
#2- Bench him: This would just be incredibly depressing. Vick on the bench is being punished, but in a way that hurts the team without providing any kind of distance between the QB and the team. It would also elevate Harrington to the starter's role and leave Vick riding the pine and talking to D.J. Shockley. That's not a particularly good scenario for the Falcons or Shockley. I would consider this scenario both stupid and unlikely.
#3- Suspend him: To me, this still seems like the most likely outcome. I'm sure Blank and the team want to save face in the most intense way, and the best way to do that is to simply take him out of the equation. A suspension of even a few games would send the message that Blank is tired of dealing with Vick and that the team can move along without him, which should quiet criticism a little. More importantly, it allows the team to focus on football and try to prepare for the season, which is absolutely essential with a new coach and a lot of new young players. If suspended, Vick would have time to deal with the legal issues, attempt to get his life on track, and if found innocent rebuild his football career. I'm of the opinion that this is the most sensible course of action for the Falcons to take...so they probably won't do it.
#4- Cut him: As discussed earlier in the week, the Falcons would have to absorb some cap hits in order to cut Vick. They might try to find a loophole in order to save some money, but the NFLPA could conceivably file a grievance and that could drag on into eternity. If they cut ties with Vick altogether, they'll be out from under his legal troubles but in no small amount of cap difficulties for a couple of years. They'll also be without a single quarterback who has either experience or aptitude at the position, so they'll be pretty well boned. The only way they could possibly pull it off is if they could pull off a trade for a competent QB or tank the season so completely that they'd be in the running for Brian Brohm next year. Either outcome isn't particularly appealing to me. I think this is a longshot.
Some of you would like to see the "give Vick some candy" option and others would like to see the "give Vick the guillotine" option, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Falcons don't have a lot of Milky Ways or French tools of execution lying around. If someone thinks of a particularly compelling option I missed, let us all know in the comments section.
Otherwise, hang in there.