Vick’s gone from infamous to irrelevant

With the exception of certain defense lawyers, I consider myself among the few to have reaped legitimate benefits from Michael Vick. His exposure as a heartless promoter of dog-fighting coincides, roughly, with my tenure at FOXSports.com.

And I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that his downfall proved a substantial, if unintended boon for a columnist new to the Internet. Once upon a time, at the New York Post, I learned that there were about half a dozen people whose mere presence in your story made it a candidate for the front page: Teddy and John-John Kennedy, Trump, Tyson, Gotti and, if memory serves, Leona Helmsley.

Sixteen years later, I found that it wasn’t much different writing sports on the Web, where readers couldn’t seem to get enough of Kobe, LeBron, A-Rod, Favre, Tiger and Vick.

Less than four months after the world’s best-known parolee signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, he’s a become a little-used third-string quarterback. I have never witnessed so swift a fall, in any area of endeavor, from infamy to anonymity.

Maybe it’s not the worst experiment in the history of football. But nothing has registered a lower score on the impact-to-hype meter.

Michael Vick is going back to the Georgia Dome to play the Falcons, playoff positions on the line, and outside Atlanta or Philly, no one really cares. Even the opportunists from PETA aren’t exploiting the opportunity.

Then again, neither are the Eagles. And at this point, you have to wonder why they bothered to sign a backup’s backup for $1.6 million with a $5.2 million option for 2010.

The story was a shocker when it broke. After all, Philadelphia already had a quarterback, Donovan McNabb, and an understudy, Kevin Kolb. On July 28, coach Andy Reid was asked about Vick and said: “Right now we have a good situation at quarterback, so that’s not the direction I’m looking.”

By August 13, following a preseason game with the Patriots, Reid was gushing about all the great things Vick could do for the Eagles, calling him “a difference-maker in a lot of areas.”

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“He’s a very versatile quarterback, so there are some things that you can do,” said the coach. “I haven’t put all of that together yet, but I have some pretty good ideas.”

Like the wildcat?

“He can do some of that,” said Reid. “I can’t give all of that away. We have to have a little element of surprise.”

Like you used DeSean Jackson in the wildcat?

“Those are all things that Michael can do, but you have to remember that Michael is familiar with this offense. Donovan is still our quarterback, but there are some things you can do with spreading people out and using different personnel groups. That can make it pretty exciting because he is a pretty good athlete.”

The coach assured everyone that Vick and McNabb were great friends, and that McNabb had wholeheartedly endorsed the signing. As this came from a guy who had just said the Eagles weren’t interested in the ex-con, it dissuaded no one from writing that McNabb’s job was already in peril. And what do you know, before the preseason was over, McNabb was complaining that the frequent use of all those Vick-friendly formations were disrupting the offense.

So here it is, the first week of December and the guy whose various misdeeds and ever-enticing potential had dominated news cycles is barely a story on the eve of his return to Atlanta. One can argue the media had better things to do, that in the pantheon of Nike’s demi-gods, a faithless husband now trumps a dog-fighter.

But the truth is, no one cares about a third-stringer. Vick has completed 3 of 9 passes for 6 yards and run 15 times for 65 yards, just one of those carries being significant — a 34-yard dash against the Bears a couple of weeks ago.

Maybe Reid still doesn’t want to give it all away just yet, all those exciting things Vick could do as an Eagle. Maybe the wildcat isn’t what it was cracked up to be, especially if you already have a quarterback. Maybe McNabb was right about Vick disrupting his unit’s rhythm.

I’m sure it’s not just the coach’s fault, though. Some of it’s got to be Vick’s. He’s probably not what he was physically. Eighteen months in federal lockup isn’t the best thing for a quarterback.

On the other hand, if Reid ever wanted to make use of his difference-maker, this would be a good time. With Jackson and Brian Westbrook both out with concussions, Reid might want to start scheming for the Georgia Dome.

C’mon, coach. At least make it interesting.

I don’t care what anyone says. Michael Vick’s been good to me. I’d hate to see him go down as the NFL’s Leona Helmsley.