PHILADELPHIA – Michael Vick had just scored after another dazzling run against the Redskins when Eagles fans at a local sports bar began chanting: “M-V-P! M-V-P! M-V-P!”
It was a far cry from what Vick was being called a few years ago.
Once one of the NFL’s biggest and highest paid stars, his career was in ruins and his life in shambles. He was broke, reviled and relegated to being a situational No. 3 quarterback after serving 18 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring.
Now he’s on top again, playing maybe better than ever, and just in time to become perhaps the biggest free agent on the market next year.
Vick may have had the best all-around game by a quarterback in NFL history Monday night against Washington. He threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 80 yards and two scores in Philadelphia’s 59-28 victory.
So much for everyone who protested his arrival in Philadelphia and threatened to boycott games.
“I thought what he did was disgusting, but the guy paid his dues and deserves a second chance,” said Shaun Young, an 18-year season-ticket holder who was inducted into the Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association’s Hall of Fame last year in Canton, Ohio.
“He’s playing incredible. I respect people’s opinions that don’t like him, but isn’t this world based on second chances?”
Since signing with the Eagles in August 2009, he’s been a model citizen off the field, working with the Humane Society of the United States and speaking to school and community groups about the cruelty of dogfighting.
On the field, Vick has been downright spectacular, even more so than when he was a superstar with the Atlanta Falcons.
“I feel like I’m playing the best football only because of the coaches that I have, the guys I’m playing with. The offensive line is playing great,” Vick said. “I have a great group of guys around me. Just as I’m doing a great job, those guys are doing a great job as well.”
Fickle fans who were outraged when the Eagles signed him to a two-year deal are now demanding the team give him a new contract. Vick could be a top free agent on the market next year if Philadelphia lets him get that far. Teams who weren’t willing to trade a high draft pick for him when the Eagles made him available last offseason just may be lining up to throw money at him.
“The other 31 teams out there need to save their money and vote for Michael Vick or try to get a bid for him because the way he was looking out there, he was looking awesome,” Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said.
“I could have never envisioned this,” Vick said. “Signing here, I didn’t even think I’d be starting as the quarterback this year. So, all of this is paramount for me, but at the same time it’s somewhat surprising.”
Hard to believe that Vick’s No. 7 jersey, which was being sold at clearance prices last December, is a hot item again.
Indeed, Vick has made the Eagles (6-3) an instant contender. They’re 4-0 in games that he’s started and finished, and are tied with the New York Giants for first in the NFC East.
Check out his numbers, despite missing three games with a rib injury: He has passed for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs and rushed for 341 yards and four TDs. He hasn’t thrown an interception or lost a fumble and his passer rating of 115.1 leads the NFL.