Armchair GM – Countdown to No Michael Vick
NFL Free Agency begins Wednesday, March 9th, 4:00 and thus should end the blackest time in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Michael Vick era. It will be a joy to go to the Steelers web page and look at the roster and not see his name there. There has been a great deal of unnecessary strife by Mike Tomlin’s decision to bring his longtime… whatever, on to the Steelers.
The Steelers upper management has all but disavowed any knowledge of the move, with a vague, low key admission he had been added to the roster by Mr. Rooney and not much more. After Vick played and sucked, Tomlin wouldn’t even bring up his name during press conferences when discussing the backup QB position. It is quite obvious they have known it was a bad idea and it is also obvious they have felt the pressure from groups like ‘Pittsburghers Against Michael Vick’ despite what amounts to a local mainstream media blackout on the subject.
The standard of the Steelers has been lowered. Recent speculation about the possibility of Pacman Jones coming via Free Agency illustrates that accepted knowledge is now, ‘If the Steelers would sign Vick…”
It has been ugly. It has been divisive. It has brought about an unprecedented and totally needless era of fan on fan ‘violence’ in Steeler Nation.
I couldn’t be more happy it is coming to an end.
On the Phone with a Nervous Art Rooney III.
I got the opportunity to be in on a group ‘fan’ phone call with Art Rooney II. I’ve participated in many such calls with the Steelers brass and players, so I knew the ropes. I called in early at the assigned time so I could get one of the first spots in the question cue. Shortly after the call started the moderator came on and asked me what my question was.
I said “What if any moves were going to happen at backup quarterback and will Michael Vick be asked to come back next year?”. The screener paused for a second and then said, “I’ll put that question in for you’. (They usually say nothing but, ‘Thanks’) Now, I could’ve said I wanted to talk about something else and then asked the Vick question when called but I figure sandbagging the screener is a sure way to get disinvited from future phone calls.
My plan, if connected, was to ask him directly about Vick and ask him if he was aware of the terrible rift it had created in Steeler Nation. I was also going to ask him if he had read, ‘An Open Letter to Art Rooney II Regarding Michael Vick’
The call progressed and most of it was along the lines of ‘Mr. Rooney, it’s an honor meeting you. What/who are you going Draft/start/go for in free agency, etc.”
It was all very polite and Mr. Rooney is a pro when it comes to public speaking. He has all the facts at his fingertips and seems to know how to answer any question that may be asked. It was all very relaxed.
The call went on an I realized that even though I was one of the first in the cue, they weren’t going to call on me. I had no hard feelings about this. After all, this was a ‘fan phone call’ not a press conference. I’m sure the moderators don’t want any hardball questions from people they suspect might have a beef and be putting their guest on the spot.
Especially, not this guest.
Then, one very nervous gentleman’s call was taken from Texas. He started out with the obligatory, “It’s an honor’… Then his voice trailed off. He started again. ‘What I want to ask…’ again his voice trailed off. You could hear some sound in the background and he said, ‘I’m just so nervous.’ Then some more background noise as it seemed he talking to someone in the room with him who was urging him to ask a question. All this time the relaxed mood of the call got sucked out of the air.
Finally, after hemming and hawing for a couple more seconds he asked, ‘What is the team going to be doing about getting help at backup QB, Are you going to be doing anything… uh… through free agency or the Draft?
Even this question seemed to make Mr. Rooney uncomfortable. He cleared his throat and tried to answer by saying the team would ‘evaluate the situation’ and see if free agency should be explored or if they felt there was ‘a veteran currently on the roster’. His response was fairly rambling and he wouldn’t name any players or clarify what he meant any further. Then he seemed to change the subject in mid-reply and said ‘You can’t plan for the injuries we had at Running Back this season’ and that, ‘When those type of injuries happen you usually have to make do with what is available.’
That ended the rather uncomfortable exchange.
So, what did I take away from this? Art Rooney II has pretty much put his head in sand on this entire topic. There is no doubt in my mind the entire Michael Vick incident was championed by Coach Tomlin, who has lobbied for Vick before, comes from Newport News, VA, as does Vick and has hosted a football camp with said, dog killing, felon.
The Steelers run a very tight ship. Rumors never get out until after they are a done deal and they NEVER do their laundry in public.
I think Mr. Rooney feels the Vick thing was a bad move. I think he’s aware of the problems it has caused in the Steelers’ fanbase. I know given the tight-lipped nature of the front office, Mr. Rooney doesn’t want to tip his hand if he is second guessing his Head Coach. I’m pretty sure he feels an early release for Vick from the Steelers would indicate a level of dissatisfaction with the idea of bringing Vick in. He is just waiting for March 9th to come along when Michael Vick can unceremoniously be dropped from the roster.
A large number of Steelers’ fan will rejoice when this happens.
But Mike Tomlin will never live the Michael Vick experiment, he championed, down.
And if Michael Vick is ever asked back, the rift will be permanent