Michael Vick's potential return to the NFL was covered as exhaustively as any political campaign, yet it somehow came as a shock to learn that the Eagles signed him on Thursday night. They weren't heavily mentioned as a landing spot, had indicated that they didn't have an interest and seemed to have bigger issues to figure out thanks to a spate of training camp injuries at positions Vick doesn't play.
That's all superficial stuff, though, and Vick's return was never really about football. It was about second chances and it was about forgiveness, and there are few people in the NFL who have as much first hand experience with those things as Eagles coach Andy Reid.
Reid, you'll recall, had to deal with difficult situations involving his sons in early 2007. Britt and Garrett Reid were into drugs, guns and making the kinds of mistakes that made it lucky that neither they nor anyone else lost their lives as a result. The boys both went to prison, a judge compared the Reid family home to a "drug emporium" and the problems continued this year when Garrett was sent back to prison after failing a drug test while living at a halfway house.
In short, Andy Reid knows the life of young men who've made heinous mistakes.
As the man in charge of personnel decisions in Philadelphia, Reid was the man making the call on signing Vick. He never saw him in person and has no idea how much he can contribute on the field, but signed him anyway. That's all because of life experience, something Reid alluded to when discussing the signing on Thursday night.
"I've seen people that are close to me who have had second chances that have taken advantage of those," Reid said. "It's very important that people give them an opportunity to change, so we're doing that with Michael. The other side of that is we're getting one of the best football players in the league."
Given the intensity of opinions surrounding Vick's return to professional football, it was going to take someone who was looking for more than a helpful offensive player to make that return a successful one. It was going to take someone willing to take the criticism and catcalls, which are coming on the cover of Philadelphia newspapers already, and ignore them because he felt, at the end of the day, he was doing the right thing.
Reid believes that and he'll still believe it even if Vick doesn't help the Eagles win one more game than they would have without him. That's what makes Philly the best spot for this fascinating experiment to unfold.