Like a lot of people familiar with the NFL, I've always had a lot of respect for Rich McKay, the president and general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. Smart guy and gracious. But the Michael Vick situation has left that franchise as a fan's nightmare, and McKay (below) and owner Arthur Blank deserve a lot of the blame for the fix that team finds itself in.
There's no question in my mind that the Falcons have no shot to make the playoffs again for the rest of this decade. Short of a Lazarus-like rise like the Saints pulled of last year (and I don't see anyone resembling Drew Brees or Reggie Bush or Deuce McAllister on that Atlanta roster), the Falcons are years away from contending.
Just break down that Atlanta team. The quarterback is Joey Harrington, who has been reduced to a journeyman at best. His backup is Chris Redman. Enough said.
Most of the team's stars are at the end -- I mean the tail end -- of their careers. Wide receiver Joe Horn (15th season), heroic little guy Warrick Dunn (13th season), Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler may still has some tread (8th), the offensive line averages more than 10 years with the exception of guard Justin Blalock, MLB Keith Brooking (11th), CB Lawyer Malloy (13th), oft-injured DE John Abraham (9th). It goes on and on. On a contender, the experience and leadership that goes along with age might be a plus. But that's not the Falcons. And too many recent high draft picks, like WR Michael Jenkins, have been disappointments.
Owner Blank said today that the Falcons aren't cutting Vick -- at least not yet. Reportedly, they are trying to get $22 million back and have their salary cap adjusted by the league. But the only reason to hang on to Vick is to trade him for a low-round draft pick if he's ever allowed to play again. There's no planning for his return, certainly not by the Falcons. By the time Vick is released, from prison that is, the Falcons will have already traded or signed as a free agent their next real quarterback.
So, what were these guys thinking when they traded QB Matt Schaub to Houston in the spring? The only thing I can think of is that before the Vick debacle they didn't want the press constantly writing about how they were starting the wrong quarterback. Well, that's not a worry anymore.
Photo credit: Matt York/AP