Watch: The Best NFL Draft Picks in Falcons History: No. 5 – Michael Vick

For six seasons with the Falcons, Michael Vick was one of the most exciting players the NFL had ever seen.

With Michael Vick the question was always, what if. What if Vick hadn’t broken his fibula and played more than five games in 2003, the year after the playoff upset in Green Bay. What if he had more reliable targets than tight end Alge Crumpler to throw to. What if Vick hadn’t involved himself in illegal activities, a shameful dogfighting ring. That venture led to Vick’s two-year suspension by the NFL and release by the Falcons.

Michael Vick became the first African-American to be picked first overall when the Falcons traded up in the 2001 NFL Draft with the San Diego Chargers to get him. The Falcons had spent three seasons floundering at the bottom of the NFC West after appearing in the first Super Bowl in franchise history and Vick breathed life back into the franchise.

There had been running quarterbacks in the NFL before Vick, but none had the speed, elusiveness, plus the ability to drop 60-yard dimes downfield, especially while on the run. Defenses blitzed him at their own risk. If he escaped, and more often than not he did, he’d leave down markers in the dust. Shadowing linebackers or safeties would be left grasping air. If a defense committed to Vick running, a bullet would materialize out of the backfield to an open receiver.

Vick’s first career triumph came in 2002 when he became the Falcons full time starter. After a 9-6-1 season the team traveled to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to play in the Wild Card round. The Packers had never lost a playoff game at home in franchise history to that point. The Falcons jumped out to a 24-0 first half lead and cruised to a 27-7 victory.

Vick fractured his fibula in the 2003 preseason and by the time he got back into the lineup the Falcons were 2-10. He led them to three wins in their final four games to set the table for 2004. The Falcons finished 11-5 that season to earn a first-round bye. They dismantled the St. Louis Rams 47-17 in the Divisional Round but for the second straight playoff appearance, this time in the NFC Championship Game, lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10.

Vick had one more big season left in him in a Falcons uniform. In 2006, he became the first quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. He finished with 1,039-yards and an 8.4 yards per carry average.

In the summer of 2007, Vick had pled guilty in the dogfighting scandal. The final nail in the coffin regarding his career in Atlanta came in 2008 when Matt Ryan was selected third overall in the draft to become the Falcons new franchise quarterback. Vick fractured his fibula in the 2003 preseason and by the time he got back into the lineup the Falcons were 2-10. He led them to three wins in their final four games to set the table for 2004. The Falcons finished 11-5 that season to earn a first-round bye. They dismantled the St. Louis Rams 47-17 in the Divisional Round but for the second straight playoff appearance, this time in the NFC Championship Game, lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10.

Vick was reinstated for the 2009 season and finished his career playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. We’ll spend years asking ‘what if’ when it comes to Michael Vick but one thing is definite. For six seasons with the Falcons Vick was one of the most exciting players the NFL had ever seen.

Comments