Michael Vick for 2010 MVP?

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Heading into the final stretch of the 2010 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles are tied with the New York Giants at the top of the NFL standings, but their 6-3 record doesn’t tell the whole story. Quarterback Michael Vick, playing his first full season after a two-year suspension for his part in a dog-fighting ring and gambling operation, is having one of the best seasons for a quarter back in recent memory. At this point, the only thing holding him back from near-certain MVP status is the fact that he missed weeks 5-7 due to injury.

Vick has come a long way. Just two years ago, practically no one was willing to say a positive thing about him. He had shown incredible talent as the leader of the Atlanta Falcons’ offense through the early to mid-00s, but he threw it all away by making unforgivable mistakes in his personal life.

And once he had served his time and appeared ready to come back, few fans and analysts were willing to take him at his word that he had reformed and was ready to be a better man. Many saw this as mere lip service from a convicted criminal looking to start making millions again.

Due to these suspicions, many Philadelphia fans were outraged when Vick was brought in at the start of the 2009 season to back up Donovan MacNabb. He played only a handful of plays that season, but when MacNabb was traded to the Redskins in early 2010, Vick appeared ready to step up. Against widespread concerns from fans, analysts, and coaching staff, head coach Andy Ried opted to give Vick a chance in 2010.

The turnaround has been dramatic. In a Monday night game on November 15th, Vick had perhaps the best game by a quarter back in the history of the NFL, throwing 333 yards for four touchdowns and running 80 yards in a 59-28 victory over the Washington Redskins. The game was played in Washington, but fans throughout the Philadelphia area could be heard giving chants of “MVP! MVP!” And suddenly it seemed like all Vick’s past troubles had been forgotten.

And it’s not just the one game. Vick currently has the highest quarterback rating by a solid 10-point margin, leading the likes of David Garrard, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Vince Young, all of whom are having stellar seasons of their own. Now, Philadelphia fans have clearly warmed up to him, and they’re not the only ones using the words “MVP” and “Vick” in the same sentence.

Thanks to his on-field success, many people are now giving a second look to Vick’s claims that he is reformed and ready to be a positive member of the community. Of course, we’ll never know what exactly is going on in Vick’s mind, but his off-the-field efforts have been exemplary following his release from prison. He’s been involved with the Humane Society of the U.S., has spoken in schools and communities about the cruelty of dogfighting, and continues to talk openly about his newfound positive outlook on life.

The Eagles weren’t expected to be strong contenders this year. The trade of MacNabb to the Redskins was widely regarded as a public acknowledgement by Eagles brass that 2010 was a rebuilding year. But Vick’s outstanding performance has turned the team into a surprising force, and if things continue to go as well as they did in the game versus the Redskins, Philadelphia should be a shoo-in for the playoffs.

If that happens, and if Vick continues to win people over with his off-the-field behavior, we could be witnessing one of the most surprising and inspiring stories in NFL history.

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