As New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady put the finishing touches on another brilliant season by wiping the field with the Miami Dolphins in the season finale, he also effectively wiped the NFL’s slate clean of a possible impending firestorm. As recently as a few weeks ago, serious debate was heating up as to whether Brady or the Philadelphia Eagles’ Michael Vick deserved to be named as the league MVP. Tom Terrific kept his pedal to the metal, while Vick’s season ran out of steam at home against the Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys. Brady’s selection as MVP can now be seen as a formality, blunting the implications of Vick’s fine season. Had the two quarterbacks ended in a virtual dead heat in the awards race, it’s a sure bet that the gloves would have come off in the fight over Vick’s status in the game.
It’s undeniable that Vick has made a remarkable comeback to the field after spending nearly two years in prison for dogfighting crimes. To get here, he first had to land an NFL roster spot, which he did courtesy of the Eagles. Next, he had to get himself back into playing condition, which was probably one of the easier legs of the journey for such a gifted athlete. Then, he had to overcome his third-string status, which he did through a series of injuries and trades that left him as the second-stringer behind Kevin Kolb after Donovan McNabb was dispatched to the Washington Redskins. Finally, he had to play his butt off when given the chance, which he did, effectively wresting the starting job from Kolb. Once the pocket was his, Vick showed more football maturity than ever before, blending his well-known scrambling abilities with new-found patience and passing skills. The football world was (and is) abuzz.
However, there remains a large contingent of folks who don’t believe that Vick should have ever been allowed back into the league due to the despicable nature of his crimes. There are many arguments to be made from that side of the aisle, from his not deserving the riches that are now coming his way to his not being a fit role model for young men, which NFL players are, like it or not. The bottom line is that Vick is an incredibly divisive figure right now, and any accolades that he receives are likely to fan the flames of debate, civilized or otherwise, that he engenders.
So, in a way, it’s a good thing for a lot of people that Brady was able to put his foot on the neck of this season. He greased the Patriots’ route to, and maybe through, the playoffs. He gave Roger Goodell a reprieve from defending Vick’s presence in the league. Heck, Brady may have even helped out Vick, allowing him to concentrate on navigating the playoffs rather than paddling through more controversy. It sure would have been a fun mess for fans to debate, though.