|Reeves on the Falcons: “When Mike really needed them they turned their back." (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Dan Reeves was the coach when the Falcons selected Michael Vick with the first-overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft. Atlanta was 7-9 and 9-6-1 in Vick's first two seasons before Reeves was fired midway through the 2003 campaign. At lot has happened in the subsequent eight years; Vick led the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game in 2004 before dogfighting charges and legal issues landed him in prison in 2007. He returned to football in 2009 with the Eagles, as Donovan McNabb's backup, and after a Comeback Player of the Year effort in 2010, he's now Philly's franchise quarterback.
On Sunday night, he returns to Atlanta, this time as the Eagles starter, in a matchup between two teams many people expect to be in the playoffs come January.
Reeves, who still keeps in touch with Vick, understands that this isn't a typical week for either the Falcons or the Eagles. “There is a big buzz down here,” Reeves told PhillySportsDaily.com's Tim McManus. “There is tremendous excitement waiting for this game. There are mixed emotions.”
McManus writes that Reeves "was one of many that had invested something valuable in Vick and got burned." Despite it all, Reeves remained loyal, something he thinks the organization should have done, too.
“When Mike really needed them they turned their back on him in my opinion,” said Reeves. “They could have been a big supporter and they let him go. I think it could have been handled differently. I wasn’t there so I don’t know the organization’s standpoint, but I thought they could have been more supportive and instead they severed ties with him.”
That's a slippery slope. As PFT.com's Mike Florio notes, Vick had exhibited a pattern of lying to his employers, the NFL and authorities about his involvement in dogfighting. At some point, the Falcons needed to move on, and that's what they did. And it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows for them; the team was dreadful in 2007, going 4-12 and watching new head coach Bobby Petrino quit midway through the year.
“[Vick] has let down his fans and his team. He has damaged the reputation of our club and the entire National Football League, and betrayed the trust of many people,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said in the summer of 2007.
The Eagles-Falcons get-together won't be the first time Vick has faced his former team, just the first time he'll do so as Philly's starting quarterback. The two sides played in December 2009. On that day, Vick replaced McNabb in the fourth quarter with the Eagles leading 27-0. Yahoo.com's Michael Silver writes that it was "to the delight of thousands of [Atlanta] fans – many of them wearing replicas of Vick’s old Falcons jersey – who’d been chanting his name."
"In what Blank would come to view as a gratuitous gesture of disrespect by Philly coach Andy Reid, Vick wowed the crowd with a 43-yard pass to wideout Reggie Brown, followed by a 5-yard scoring toss to tight end Brent Celek, his first touchdown pass since 2006 in an eventual 34-7 victory. With tens of thousands of frustrated customers already having bolted, the Dome was dominated by jubilant Vick supporters, and Blank could only sit and seethe."
So, yes, this won't be your typical non-divisional, Week 2 matchup between two NFC teams. Far from it, in fact.
The Atlanta Falcons will square off against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Who will come out on top? Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan for a preview of this game.
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