Rams GM explains what Michael Vick’s rise and fall taught the NFL

Vick has said he'll be done with football after the 2016 season.

The Sporting News/Sporting News via Getty Images

Before his arrival, the NFL had never really seen anyone like Michael Vick — for better and for worse. And it’s unlikely we’ll ever see another Vick, given everything that transpired during his career.

Current Los Angeles GM Les Snead knows all about Vick’s impact on Atlanta and the league at large, as he was the director of player personnel for the Falcons during Vick’s time with the team. Snead joined FOX Sports’ Peter Schrager this week for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on Vick’s on-field prowess; his off-field transgressions; Rams rookie QB Jared Goff; the Sam Bradford trade from last year; and more.

Of course, Vick’s career exploded in controversy when he was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Aside from the reprehensible nature of the crime, Snead explained how Vick’s transgressions taught the NFL a much-needed lesson:

“During those situations, you always try to learn something from it and apply it in the future. And I think the best thing that probably happened from all that is you quickly realize that a lot of these young kids are under extreme pressure. And I think with Michael’s sake, he would want to escape and get back to his old friends, just to get away from some of the stresses of being the face of the franchise — the face of the city.

“I think what probably all teams and especially us and myself have carried on is that, number one, you realize these are not just young — you’re not just developing football players. You’re developing young men to men. Not just for their time that they’re with you and your franchise. Because you can play a long time, right? And it’s 10 years, and all of a sudden, a 21-year-old is now 31. … So I think those moments, what you learn from it, “Hey, let’s try to do everything we can to continue playing the college role,” per se. It’s not just a job, it’s not just, “You’re a professional.” Even though you are, and the standards and all of that increase, as they should be, the bar is higher.

“You put in programs or whatever, to develop, if you want to call it, boys to men, and not just football players. That’s what I’ve tried to do and I think a lot of NFL teams from that moment have tried to do.”

Looking back, Snead says that the spectacle surrounding Vick was comparable to what we see in today’s NBA — which likely played into the "pressure" Snead believes Vick faced in Atlanta:

“In Atlanta, during our Super Bowl year, I don’t think we sold out a game, even though we went 14-2. … so that just kind of lets you know where the Falcons were on the meter in Atlanta. But I think what Vick did was made you relevant immediately. He was just one of those players at the time, because he was one of the first running QBs that was electric and can pass the ball. Just one of those — people wanted to come see him play.

“So you had people coming to see him play like you almost would, “Let’s go watch LeBron [James] tonight,” or, “Let’s go watch Steph Curry tonight.” A little bit like the NBA, I think that’s what Vick brought to Atlanta. You had to be there and live it to really get the full, full scope or picture of what Vick meant to that city.”

It’s a fascinating comparison. In the NBA, you only have the five players per side, so the stars stand out. That’s not really the case in the NFL; football is the ultimate team game, where we root for our favorite franchises first and our favorite players second. 

Vick played five games for the Steelers in 2015, completing 40 of 66 passes (60.6 percent) and throwing 2 TDs to 1 INT.

When Vick was drafted by the Falcons in 2001, however, he immediately made Atlanta relevant as a football city and helped secure the city’s reputation as an entertainment and cultural epicenter, according to Snead.

As for the present day, Snead revealed just how cool and confident Rams No. 1 pick Jared Goff is with a story from Goff’s pro day before the draft. Check out the podcast for that and more discussion about some of the Rams’ recent personnel moves.