By Furman Bisher | Tuesday, August 28, 2007, 10:40 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This is the tale of two quarterbacks. One, the new Michael Vick standing, before a rapt audience declaring his newly forged relationship with God. The other, a journeyman of modest achievement, first in line to be his successor as a Falcon, Joey Harrington. The day was Aug. 27, and the lives of the two would intersect only in the most disparate of ways.
In Richmond, Vick would stand before a judge and plead guilty to a hideous felony, then take the podium at a hotel nearby and reveal a Michael Vick none of us had ever perceived. He threw himself on the mercy of the people in a subservient manner that caused a response of compassion. It was revealing of an inner Vick none had ever known. Impeccably clad, no flashing jewelry, stern features, kind of pleading in a way, deporting himself in a manner that reached for your heart.
No further cause here to go into a repetition of his misdeeds, only a gnawing query of how an athlete of such extraordinary talent could have lowered himself to such depths for his private amusement? For one thing, he had been over-endowed with a contract of riches that was hugely excessive. One hundred thirty millions of dollars to fling or carry a football? Arthur Blankâ€™s impulsiveness was fed by the dramatics that Vick brought to the football field. Vick had found his Midas. That relationship will be abruptly severed once the Falcons reclaim what they can of the huge bonus that preceded it all.
For all your hopes and dreams, you have seen the last of Michael Vick clad in his Falcons No. 7. While he stood before a crowded press herd, sopping up his confessional like a sponge in Richmond, Arthur Blank stood before an audience equally thirsty for his benediction to an era, though ever so brief, in Atlanta. Their divorce as employer and employee was being declared. It was a morose conclusion to what had been blessed with glorious promise.
Later that evening, the other quarterback would take his place, previously occupied by Vick, in the Georgia Dome. He is the traditional type, take the snap, drop back, find your target, deliver the ball. The Falcons were playing their third preseason game against Cincinnati. Joey Harrington had been picked up off the street, so to speak, a matter of desperation in the view of Vickâ€™s defection. His rival for the evening would be a Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer, a glittering star when the two played in the Pac-10. Harrington had been a star at Oregon, but far from the glitter of Southern Cal and Palmer, and was drafted by Detroit, later traded to Miami, which was a form of rejection.
His ascension as the successor to Vick became automatic. He was all they had. What a predicament for Bobby Petrino, new on the job. There was no mourning. If he ever mentioned Vickâ€™s name, it never got beyond the gates at Flowery Branch. He put his team on the field, rounded up a couple of spear-carriers to back up Harrington, and said â€œbring â€˜em on,â€ a term attributed only to me.
Now, this was critically coincidental. The day of Vickâ€™s plea in Richmond, Harrington would get his introduction to the home fans. Many caroused outside in defense of Vick. Many inside wore shirts bearing Vickâ€™s name. The Dome was smatteringly attended, but somehow the crowd seemed to grow, as did its approval of Harrington as the game wore on. He completed eight of his first nine passes, often under a hard rush. But he held his ground in the pocket and fired bullets. Touchdown passes were completed to Adam Jennings and Jerious Norwood, and Roddy White dropped one in the end zone, causing some to wonder just which Roddy White this was. (Thatâ€™s also the name of the Falconsâ€™ event director.)
Harrington put his firm clasp on the job. It wasnâ€™t one of those games that fluttered with exciting plays, but most encouraging trend was, once in the lead, the Falcons had the defense to hold it. Petrino was conspicuous by his inconspicousness. No nose for the camera. What he put on the field bore his signature. Like a well-fitting pair of gloves on a pair of hands, it seemed, he and Joey Harrington having their opening night together. One performance does not a season make, or even establish a trend, but there was something the Falcons were quite proud of.
After Harrington had left the field to Chris Redman and Casey Bramlet, it was revealed to the press box that Harringtonâ€™s passing rating was 118, the kind of stuff of which the road to Canton is paved. Foolish thought, oh, how foolish, but it was a treasured testimonial for one exceedingly nerve-racked day in the life of the Falcons.
Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.
"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm".
Henry David Thoreau
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail.
"Luck is the residue of design." - Branch Rickey