Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Winners and Losers (Ookie Plea Deal Edition)

Michael Vick won't formally enter his plea deal with federal prosecutors until next week, but that hasn't the chattering class from speculating about how much jail time the Falcons quarterback will receive--and if he has any future in the NFL.

We're already on the record with a predicted sentence of 16 months and an end to his pro football career, assuming that federal judge Henry Hudson lives up to his tough reputation--and that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does the right thing by banning Vick for life, based on the gambling element of his dog-fighting and conspiracy case.

Michael Vick's transition from pro football stardom to convicted felon has been both swift and stunning. And like all cases, the Vick saga has produced its share of winners and losers, ranging from the key participants, to individuals and organizations that played a lesser role. A few of them are listed below:


Chuck Rosenberg. Confirmed two months ago as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Vick prosecution represented Mr. Rosenberg's first high-profile case in his new post. As a University of Virginia law grad (and former assistant U.S. attorney in the state), Rosenberg understood the potential difficulty in prosecuting Vick, who has been a football icon since his prep days at Warwick High School in Newport News, and collegiate stardom in Virginia Tech. Despite that potential obstacle, Mr. Rosenberg made Vick's prosecution a priority, and his prosecutors (Michael Gill and Brian Whistler) quickly secured plea agreements with Vick's co-defendants, forcing the NFL star to seek his own deal. Sending Michael Vick to jail won't make Rosenberg a shoo-in candidate for Attorney General in a future Republican administration, but it certainly won't hurt his reputation, either.

Defensive Coordinators in the NFC South. While Vick's performance as an NFL quarterback is somewhat overrated (after six years in the league, his quarterback rating is only 75.7), there was little doubt that his mobility gave defensive coordinators fits. Now, with Vick heading to jail, defensive coordinators for the Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers--who play the Falcons twice a year--can breath a bit easier. Vick's replacement--former Lions QB Joey Harrington--has an even lower rating, and he's no threat as a scrambler.

The ASPCA. While PETA reps ran for the cameras--and tried to use the Vick case for their own benefit--the ASPCA did the real work, assisting federal officials in their investigation. The ASPCA remains at the forefront of efforts to stop dog-fighting while PETA is pre-occupied with staging media events.


Michael Vick. Threw away a $130 million NFL contract. Blew millions in endorsement deals. And for what? A chance to run his own, interstate dog-fighting ring. Yeah, it may enhance his street creds, but Vick's eager participation in the most barbaric of sports destroyed both his reputation and career. Need we say more?

The Atlanta Falcons. Build your future around a quarterback with "no real friends in the clubhouse" and illegal "hobbies" on the side? Sure. Mortgage much of salary cap "wiggle room" against that same player? Absolutely. Trade a promising young QB (Matt Schaub) and keep Joey Harrington as your back-up? You bet. Team most likely to finish dead last in their division for the next 2-3 years (at least)? Why, the Atlanta Falcons, of course.

Arthur Blank. The Home Depot co-founder--and Falcons' owner--gave Vick the keys to his franchise, despite questionable conduct in the past (both on and off-the-field). Now Blank's team is stuck with a quarterback that was rejected by the lowly Detroit Lions, while trying to negotiate a settlement on Vick's fat contract, and overcome a public relations disaster. It's the type of managerial acumen that resulted in Blank's retirement at Home Depot, and his replacement by a new CEO (Bob Nardelli), who further depressed company stock values--and the size of Blank's personal fortune.

PETA. As we've noted from Day One, the Vick scandal should be a major embarrassment to the media-hungry animal rights organization. Vick's "Bad Newz Kennels" set up shop and operated for more than five years in Surry County, Virginia--barely 35 miles from PETA's headquarters in Norfolk. And, the group's claims about its "national" focus are no excuse. During the same period that Vick ran his dog-fighting operation (2002-2007), PETA staffers were involved in at least two, local animal-rights cases which prove that the organization has misplaced priorities, and is more adept at media manipulation than actually preventing animal cruelty.

Gerald Poindexter. As Commonwealth's Attorney in Surry County, Mr. Poindexter has been a shining example of prosecutorial incompetence. While Chuck Rosenberg's staff was already building its strong case against Vick, Mr. Poindexter told reporters (in early June) that he "didn't have a single investigative report in his file." And while federal prosecutors were preparing indictments, Mr. Poindexter suggested that me might present evidence to a local grand jury in July--a deadline that passed without event. Now, Poindexter says he may present his case in September, roughly a month after Vick enters a guilty plea on federal charges. Saying that Mr. Poindexter has been overly deferential to Surry County's Most Famous (Former) Resident--and his attorneys--would be an understatement.

No comments: