Redskins' McNabb goes against Vick, man he endorsed for job

Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb share a laugh during 2009 preseason game at the Linc.
Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb share a laugh during 2009 preseason game at the Linc.
Posted: September 30, 2010

OTHER THAN once having been the two highest-drafted African-American NFL quarterbacks, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick didn't have that much in common when McNabb signed off on bringing Vick to Philadelphia, a little more than 13 months ago.

McNabb grew up middle class in a Chicago suburb, with two strong parents who were always very involved in his decisions. Graduated from Syracuse, was drafted second overall in 1999, married his college girlfriend, settled down, never endured a whiff of off-the-field controversy.

Vick grew up in public housing in Newport News, Va., born to teenaged parents who weren't married at the time. He left Virginia Tech after his sophomore season, was drafted first overall in 2001, became a bigger, flashier star nationally than McNabb (if a much less successful quarterback), then crashed spectacularly. Vick went to prison for running a dogfighting ring, had to declare bankruptcy, and became a cautionary tale for high-flying athletes everywhere.

We've always gotten two signficantly different versions of how Vick came to become an Eagle in August 2009, from Eagles management and McNabb. It's a story that takes on added heft this week with Vick about to lead the Birds into battle against the Redskins and McNabb, their longtime franchise QB.

In the management version, Andy Reid was the catalyst, with McNabb's quick assent essential. In McNabb's version, he authored the idea and pushed it to Reid, who quickly saw the potential. We might never know which version is closer to the truth, but there is little doubt that McNabb played a key role in setting up the showdown that will take place Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

"I am glad that coach Reid and the rest of the organization stepped forward; Donovan was very instrumental in that," Vick said right after he arrived. Yesterday, Vick said he didn't want to go through chapter and verse. "He put in a good word for me, and it happened. I was thankful for it, and they gave me an opportunity when nobody believed in me, and he was part of that. I'll never forget that."

Reid said yesterday: "Donovan opened his arms to Michael coming here. He wanted him here. So I think they've got a really good relationship, and I think Michael looks up to him."

Guys who have played with both say their personalities are different.

"Sometimes, opposites attract," wideout Jeremy Maclin concluded.

Left guard Todd Herremans was asked about differences in huddle demeanor.

"Mike's just got this attitude like, 'I'm going to get this done right now. Are you guys going to help me?' " Herremans said. "Donovan was confident in the huddle. He was pretty businesslike."

"You can see Mike's a quiet guy," said Kevin Kolb, who might be the Eagle with the closest relationship to both men. "Donovan, he likes to joke around and have a good time."

That was something Vick clearly appreciated about McNabb, whom he met on a recruiting trip to Syracuse, when Vick was a teenager.

"It was great playing with Donovan. I mean, every day at that locker, every day I came in to work I knew I was going to get a good laugh - every day," Vick said. "Sometimes four or five times a day . . . you can be in a bad mood, or things aren't going so well at home, and he'll give you good advice. He's a very responsible person, an overall professional."

Wonder if McNabb ever envisioned this happening as he watched Vick scrape off the rust last year? Vick certainly did not, he said.

"I never imagined that it would come to this," said Vick, who yesterday was named NFC offensive player of the month for September. "The Lord works in mysterious ways, and we all know this is a business, and at any given moment you can be traded or you can be released."

Speaking of those mysterious ways, last April, when Reid dispatched McNabb to Washington, would he have thought twice if he'd known he'd end up changing quarterbacks again after Week 2?

"Well, since I didn't think about all that, and I traded Donovan, I'm not going to worry about that," Reid said. "I mean, that's a fully loaded question, and I'm not Plato."

Reid also is not Nostradamus.

"You hope that he would be able to get back to this level and even better," Reid said, when asked if the best three-game stretch of Vick's career has surprised his coach. "But that was an unknown, and the preseason was a little bit up and down. So I think we were all hoping that he could get there, but did we know that was going to be a reality? No. I don't think anybody knew that.

How did we get from there to here?

"I think it was just a matter of playing," Reid said. "Extended plays, that's what I think it was, and just getting back in the swing of that. His preseason [started late in 2009] and then all of a sudden, you're into the season, and he's getting a handful of plays, here, there. He gets hurt, and then he comes back and he gets a handful here and there. There was nothing back-to-back-to-back, so I think that he needed that. This preseason was important for him."

McNabb said he sees the difference in Vick, watching from afar.

"I've seen a different type of person, a guy who is truly determined now," McNabb told a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters yesterday. "He's acceptive of his role and what's been asked of him, a guy who understands there's not many more chances left. He's took full advantage of that. He went in through the offseason with the mind-set of getting better, getting himself back and ready to go. You see obviously a guy out there who is making big plays for his team."

Obviously, the McNabb trade puts some pressure on Vick this week - not as much as would have fallen on Kolb, probably, but a lot. Vick saw that reinforced when he had to burrow through a huge scrum of waiting media to get to his locker yesterday.

"I've been under pressure my whole life," Vick said. "You know, pressure to take care of my family and a lot of other things. This is football; there is pressure, but you also have to make fun of it and make light of the whole situation. That's what I try to do. There's always going to be pressure. That's the great part of this game, because it brings the best out of you."

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