Falcons should have honored White on stage alone — without Vick

Falcons owner Arthur Blank honors former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (right) and wide receiver Roddy White at Blank’s family office in Atlanta on Monday. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

To open the strangest of news conferences Monday, Falcons owner Arthur Blank went on the offensive in his defense of Michael Vick, saying, “Like everybody else on the face of the earth, he has made a mistake in his life.”

That’s true. Not everybody who makes mistakes winds up in a federal penitentiary, but it doesn’t change the fact Vick did what he did and he paid an enormous price for it — personally, professionally and economically, suffering arguably the greatest fall of any athlete in history.

I’m not here to judge Vick on his past. His actions since being released from prison in 2009 suggest he’s humble, contrite and appreciative of anything good that now comes his way. He’s moved on. I’ve moved on. Forgive him, don’t forgive him, that’s your decision.

But when the Falcons made the unusual decision to concurrently celebrate the careers of both Vick and Roddy White on the same, symbolically suggesting both are going out as Falcons, it ignited more revisionist history about one player and served as a major disservice to the other.

White had hoped to continue playing after his clumsy exit from the Falcons following the 2015 season, but the offers that came in from non-contenders didn’t entice him, and he affirmed that he was retired after the Super Bowl on the, “We Never Played the Game” podcast. (That declaration was overshadowed by his comments that he “literally would have fought” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had he been on the field for the Super Bowl loss.)

White played 11 seasons for the Falcons and ranks as the greatest wide receiver in franchise history, at least until Julio Jones breaks all of his records. He was universally admired and respected by teammates, and on a personal note was one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever covered, often playing through injuries.

He deserved that stage alone last week. The Falcons should have taken that otherwise meaningless gathering last week and used it to state right then that White will be inducted into the team’s “Ring of Honor” in their new stadium and the player’s jersey No. 84 would be retired.

But because he had to share the stage with Vick, he was reduced to a relative afterthought.

White and Vick were teammates and remain close friends. But the team’s decision to put them side by side suggested they should be viewed as relative equals in franchise history, and it’s not even close.

Vick was flash. White was substance. Vick was a moment. White was a career.

There was no reason to “honor” Vick last week. But Blank has long had a soft spot/blind spot for his former quarterback and revenue-generator, so maybe we should not have been surprised.

The news conference has ignited a silly debate: Should Vick be in the “Ring of Honor” and have his No. 7 retired. In short: no.

Vick spent his six NFL seasons in a Falcons uniform. If they were six great seasons, we might have the beginnings of an argument. They weren’t. Consider:

— He started only two games in his 2001 rookie season because Chris Chandler was the incumbent. So now we’re down to five years.

— He suffered a broken leg in an exhibition game before his third season and started only four games at the tail end of a lost season. So now we’re down to four years.

— He played poorly at times in 2006, often seeming distracted and looked to borderline quit at the end, as the Falcons finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs. So now we’re down to three.

Then he went to prison and never came back.

Vick was a treasure in those other three seasons (2002, 2004, 2005). He elevated a flawed team with his incomparable speed from the quarterback position, as well as possessing a bazooka for an arm. There was the playoff win at Green Bay in 2002 and the career-best season in 2004 when he went 11-4 as a starter and took the Falcons to the NFC title game.

But that’s it. Three seasons. Is this a debate over whether to retire a jersey number for three great seasons? Because if so, there’s a long line of players ahead of Vick, in his era and before him.

Ticket sales should not factor in. Merchandising, TV ratings, water-cooler talk and the Madden video game should not factor in. Because if you choose to go down that road, crediting Vick for things that have nothing to do with football achievements, you open the door to the counter-arguments: He also went to prison. He also crashed-and-burned the Falcons.

If Blank chooses to put his arm around his former quarterback and continue the healing process for the city’s sports fans, I’m all for it. But let’s focus on the player who really mattered over the long-term. That’s White.

To the Falcons’ credit, nobody has worn jersey No. 84 since White left. Conversely, the team has assigned No. 7 to a few players in past minicamps and training camps. (Wide receiver Josh Magee, an undrafted free agent out of South Alabama, was assigned the number after recently signing.) Maybe that’s foreshadowing for eventual franchise honors.

White likely won’t make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He never played for a Super Bowl winner and he played on too many losing teams. But he made it to four Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro, had more than 800 receptions for over 10,000 yards, ranks as one of the 30 best wide receivers in NFL history and easily is No. 1 all-time in Atlanta.

He deserves the attention. He deserved the stage. He deserves the honors.

Subscribe to the,We Never Played The Game” podcast with the AJC’s Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. Episodes also can be downloaded from on-demand link on WSBRadio.com.

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Reader Comments 0

25 comments
BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

Good article. I agree 100 percent. I was never impressed with Vick's abilities as QB, although his speed did work for him for a  relatively short while.


patriotdog
patriotdog

Perhaps he did pay his debt to society, but the article is correct: three years is not a 'ring of honor career'.

GoFalcons
GoFalcons

Jeff, you are 100% wrong. He made mistake, he went to jail for it. This country always has given a chance to everyone to redeem themselves.


The victimization mentality is what is killing our country.

mgunter
mgunter

Vick had 3 good years...... not ring of honor worthy. White ..... great receiver but lost me when he started spouting off about th Travon Martin deal. Also at th end of his career he whined a bit too much.

PantherWin
PantherWin

@mgunter He lost you because you didn't agree with him? He spoke up as a black man in a country with a not so great history towards its black residents. He has a platform and he used it. Do you feel the same way about Ted Nugent mouthing off all the time? Or do you not care because you agree with his views?

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

Vick insisted that Roddy be there because they are very much in love.

irishmafia1457
irishmafia1457

So Vick is not even among the top 50 QB's of all time in QB rating, he was a fumbling, bumbling, interception throwing despicable human being who could run fast. Not very bright they had to dumb down the playbook for him.  Yet they want to honor him???? Only the Falcons could screw something like this up.

Ald420
Ald420

Here here! Roddy is one of my favorite all time athletes. Nothing against Vick, but Roddy deserves honors all to himself

BANSHEE296402
BANSHEE296402

I agree Jeff.  I concur that Vick paid his dues and we should all move past his mistake, but doing so does not entitle him to the Ring of Honor.  He was good, had a few flashes of great.  Roddy was great, had a few flashes of Hall of Fame in him. No comparison.  Maybe they asked to have ceremony together?

TOJacket
TOJacket

I'm glad he has retired a Falcon...he will always be one of my favorite to watch, and have no problem doing it with Roddy...but I would have to say no to a retired #7 or the Ring of Honor. Roddy White should most definitely join the ring!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket: ". . . have no problem doing it with Roddy."

________________

Doing it with Roddy???

Knew there was something seriously wrong with you. Just didn't expect you to confirm it in a public forum.

OH:IO
OH:IO

This coming from a lefty loon whose party is all about the, um no pun, Victim Card? 


And let's throw in your typical AJC Lib Click Bait headline, shall we? 



ATLAquarius
ATLAquarius

I think that the difference will be that Roddy goes in the Ring of Honor and Vick does not

DawgNole
DawgNole

JS: "Vick spent his six NFL seasons in a Falcons uniform."

________________

His six NFL seasons???

He played more than six NFL seasons--and not all of them were in a Falcons uniform.

Write it right!

TOJacket
TOJacket

@OH:IO @DawgNole Is there a such a thing as an italics fetish?...Mrs. Landers has to be an English teacher.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

I didn't bring up the topic. Perhaps you should ask TOJ--the object of your fetish.

TMCB
TMCB

Couldn't agree more w/ this article. Roddy deserved better. 

Your best line:"it ignited more revisionist history about one player and served as a major disservice to the other."

People completely forget how poorly Mike Vick was playing the last year and a half here. All those years of poor mechanics and not working hard manifested quickly before his conviction. I've said many times the Falcons will most likely put Mike in the Ring of Honor (Roddy's in, no doubt) because this town celebrates style over substance 100K-to-1. It is why MV7 is considered the king... for as you stated, 3 years. 


lighteredknot
lighteredknot

White lost me when he said;  "I’m glad I wasn’t a part of that team because I probably literally would’ve fought him,” .  This is  An egregious, either ignorant or stupid comment, by him.              Vick paid his dues. Vick made  a mistake, by supporting his homeboys, and they bailed and he suffered the consequences.     I go back to the Randy Johnson, Randy Matson, Bobby Riggel, Norb Hecker days.  So I have seen some Capitol Avenue mojo happenings. Joe Profit, etc;.  Pat Riots had two miracle catches.    If injured center Mack had not gotten pushed back, if  Jake Matthews  had not held,  if Freeman had blocked,  if Coleman and Schrader had not been injured, if Matt Ryan had thrown the ball away, and on and on. Can not blame the offensive coordinator.  Baring too many injures, believe the team can return  to SB 2018.