In sports, fans constantly find themselves looking back at a once-iconic player and thinking to themselves, “How the mighty have fallen.”
From Tom Brady usurping Drew Bledsoe’s throne in Foxboro to the well-documented end of Brett Favre’s relationship with Green Bay to Indianapolis’s recent public transition from the Manning era to the Luck era, there is no shortage of stories about a once-great athlete’s fall from grace in a city that once loved him.
For Michael Vick and Philadelphia, we may be watching the fall of the mighty before our very eyes.
There is no hindsight in this tale. Michael Vick is still the undisputed starter of the Philadelphia Eagles, a team with expectations to be Super Bowl contenders. Head coach Andy Reid and Vick himself are both moving forward under the assumption that Vick will play Week 1 in Cleveland, according to an Associated Press report.
So, despite leaving two preseason games early with injuries and sitting out for a third, the Mighty remains atop the Eagles’ depth chart.
But Vick plays in the most sports-crazy city in the country, and is anyone really going to act like they don’t know how this is going to play out?
All the elements are there. The lack of postseason success. The injuries that begin to beg the question of whether or not Vick is too soft to play for Philadelphia. The backup quarterback who shows just enough potential in meaningless games to give the fanbase something new to think about.
Remember, Philadelphia is the same city that largely celebrated the departure of Donovan McNabb, the greatest quarterback in team history, who took the team to the playoffs eight times. McNabb’s inability to win a Super Bowl, along with his seemingly laid-back attitude, caused many Eagles fans to turn on him.
Think that Philadelphia won’t hate a once-iconic player for appearing soft in the face on injury? Consider Eric Lindros.
Think that Philadelphia won’t favor an unproven backup over an established starter? Consider Kevin Kolb.
Think that Philadelphia can’t support trading away proven talent for a player with potential? Consider the trade of Mike Richards, which among other things, yielded prospect Brayden Schenn, who was praised for his potential to play a style of game similar to…Mike Richards.
Kevin Noonan of CBS Sports is already speculating that rookie Nick Foles’s impressive preseason could put him second on the depth chart for Philly’s quarterbacks.
In a city that has already seen its starter, who has started all 16 regular season games only once in his career, go down with two separate injuries, being No. 2 on the depth chart is less like backing the guy up, and more like nipping at his heels.
Would it surprise you if a poor offensive performance in Week 1 was followed immediately by city-wide speculation that Foles is the best man for the job?
Would it surprise you if each big hit on Michael Vick prompted grumbles that “that might be the one that puts him on the bench for good?”
Would it surprise you, even a little bit, if the blogosphere blew up with rants about how Vick’s reckless and unpredictable style is causing chaos on the Eagles’ offense and the team would be better off simply moving on to the next QB in the system?
Donovan McNabb was run out of town despite starting all 16 games four times, winning nine playoff games, leading the Eagles to their second Super Bowl appearance in history and being a beacon of sportsmanship and respect in a city that doesn’t exactly have the greatest history with those values.
Vick, as mentioned, has played through a whole season only once in his career. He has won only two playoff games and has never appeared in a Super Bowl, and despite whatever you may have heard about his vindication and redemption, he is still one of the most divisive and hated figures in sports.
The fall is inevitable, is it not? The constant cycle of rising and falling icons in Philadelphia sports is preparing to make the next step. Like McNabb, like Lindros, like Allen Iverson and Scott Rolen before him, Vick’s fall from grace is near.
It may only be weeks away.
Can Vick defy what so many of us feel is on the horizon? Can he actually play out his contract, succeed in his role as the most highly-scrutinized athletes in one of sports’ toughest cities?
Or, like a meteorologist in a tiny village in western Pennsylvania, are Philadelphia sports fans doomed to relive the same story, again and again and again and again?