Vick Didn't Want to Come to Philly, and I Don't Blame Him

Vick Didn't Want to Come to Philly, and I Don't Blame Him

There may not be a professional athlete alive today that can invoke a full spectrum of emotions the way Michael Vick can. Many fans want to cheer, others want to boo, while professional football players all want to be in the same locker room as Vick, and reporters all want their exclusive interview.

Will Leitch was the latest to catch up with the most polarizing figure in the NFL for the upcoming edition of GQ, and of course there is no shortage of delving into the Pro Bowl quarterback's criminal past. Vick also talked about his decision to sign with the Eagles though, admitting he didn't necessarily want to wear midnight green--as if it were some sort of bombshell.

"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth... I didn't want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options."

It's a line that's already garnered quite a bit of attention, but why would this have been his first choice? At the time, Donovan McNabb was still firmly entrenched as the franchise quarterback, and if something happened to Five, the coaches were also high on Kevin Kolb. When the Eagles signed Vick, there didn't appear to be even a remote path that would lead him to become the starting quarterback here.

Furthermore, it shouldn't really come as any surprise Vick wasn't overly thrilled with the situation, considering he had an escape plan built in to his first contract. The two-year deal was structured in such a way that the Eagles either needed to trade or release Vick after one season, otherwise they owed him a hefty bonus that would drive up the cost much higher than normal for a reserve quarterback.

It just so happened by that time, no serious suitors remained. There simply wasn't much of a market for Vick in 2010, and after shipping McNabb to Washington, Andy Reid suddenly had a need for a veteran backup behind the unproven Kolb. The rest is history.

Even before that though, Vick made it perfectly clear he wouldn't be satisfied spending another season primarily on the bench, occasionally subbing in to run a handful of Wildcat plays. Asked during last year's off-season if he could reprise that role, Vick responded:

"It would be a tough decision to make. I would really have to take a lot of things into consideration. The fact that I want to be a starter."

"[If] another opportunity presented itself, it would be even better."

Meanwhile, Leitch's article goes on to suggest Vick may have been steered toward Philadelphia, which both the quarterback and the league have quickly come out and denied. If Cincinnati or Buffalo did in fact have offers on the table for Vick, based on his not-so-hidden agenda, it's not difficult to understand why he might have preferred those scenarios.

With that in mind, it's also difficult not to get the feeling Vick's choice was influenced by somebody close to him. Everything he has said and done seemed largely motivated by his goal of regaining his status as a superstar QB in the NFL. While the best possible destination for him was almost undoubtedly in Philly, where the only immediate pressure was on improving, the fastest possible route would have been someplace where there was less stability.

What's truly important today is not how Vick felt about signing here at the time, but that he recognizes how critical the correct decision was for rehabilitating his career. He could've gone and played right away somewhere else, but not likely ever enjoy the success--team or individual--he is poised to have with the Eagles in 2011. Thankfully, Vick really seems to understand that now.

"The problem was that I wasn't given the liberty to do certain things when I was young. The reason I became a better player was because I came to Philly."

>> The Impossible, Inevitable Redemption of Michael Vick [GQ]
>> NFL says Vick wasn't steered to Philadelphia [PFT]
>> Vick Statement On GQ Article [PE.com]

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright remembers facing Joel Embiid's Kansas team, and he's shocked by the improvements Embiid made while sitting out the last two years.

"Could you imagine not playing for two years and getting better?" Wright said Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. "We played against him in college and he was not close — he was good, but not close to the player that he was at the start of this year. 

"What [the Sixers'] staff did while he was out is incredible. I don't know what other pro athlete has done that or could do that — not play and improve drastically.

"He's a unique force. We haven't seen a guy that's got this will defensively and ability defensively and then the skill level and mobility offensively. I've heard some people compare him to (Hakeem) Olajuwon. He's far more mobile than Olajuwon. Olajuwon, offensively, had his set of skills, which [Embiid] will develop. But the mobility he's got far exceeds Olajuwon. He's exciting. ... It's nice to feel this vibe with the Sixers right now."

Wright was also asked if he, as a coach, would want a player on a minutes restriction participating in the All-Star Game.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I think that it's such an accomplishment for Joel Embiid. It would build his confidence so much to be on the floor with those guys and realize he's earned this. And to have that a part of his psyche going into the next season — 'OK, I've already been separated during the regular season with those guys, I belong with those guys.' So next year I'm thinking, 'I wanna beat these guys, I wanna be better than these guys.' 

"I think it'll be great for him. I think it's awesome ... what Brett Brown and his staff have done with this guy."

As lucky as good?
With a national championship and another No. 1 ranking this season, it would be understandable if Wright was feeling himself right about now. 'Nova is 17-1 and back atop the AP poll after a brief stint at No. 3.

National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart is leading the way for the Wildcats with 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. A lot of Villanova's success this season is owed to Hart's decision to return for his senior year, so Wright has no issue admitting there's been some luck involved in the Wildcats' recent success.

"It's a tremendous advantage and it's really been probably the most important factor in our success the last three, four years," Wright said of 'Nova's senior leadership Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad.

"A lot of it is, on Villanova's side, luck. Josh Hart could have left last year. He just looked at it and kind of said, 'I could be maybe a late first-round, early [second-round pick]. I'd rather come back and get my degree.' 

"Having people that make that choice, you're lucky. If we lose him last year, we're a lot younger team this year. Daniel Ochefu the year before was faced with that decision. He stayed. 

"So when you get those guys that decide they're gonna stay, you catch a break because they're invaluable, a senior of that level. Daniel's playing in the NBA now. So we had a guy for a year that was an NBA player. And we have that with Josh this year. Kris (Jenkins) is developing into one, Darryl (Reynolds) has a chance."

Villanova, which destroyed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday, hosts Providence Saturday at noon.

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

When Brett Brown agreed to become the Sixers' head coach, he knew he was embarking upon a unique challenge with a franchise that planned to be as methodical as possible in its rebuild. 

One of the results was a career record for Brown of 47-199 entering this season, a record so lopsidedly poor that Brown may never break the .500 mark.

But the Sixers are finally showing real progress, with a star in Joel Embiid and young players who are turning out to be useful pieces. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine, and there's no one happier to see that than Brown's former boss and mentor, Gregg Popovich.

"It's one of my joys in life to watch them win basketball games because if there's any team that deserves it, it's those guys," Popovich told ESPN.

Brown and the Sixers aren't out of the woods yet. At 14-26, they're still closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but the entire vibe around the team has changed. 

"They've had it really tough for all the obvious reasons," said Popovich, who has been the Spurs' head coach since 1996 and worked with Brown from 2002-13.

"There's nobody in our business that is more positive, and more day-to-day upbeat and ready to teach and love than Brett Brown. He's a unique, unique guy."