For Michael Vick, the honeymoon seems to be over.
Not just in terms of fan perception, though that is part of it. He went from public pariah when they Eagles signed him, to the chosen one by the middle of last season.
More in terms of how Michael Vick feels about being a starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Or just being a starting quarterback at all.
You could see it in his eyes, and hear it in his post-game comments about the refs and late hits. Michael Vick is feeling the pressure. Not just physical, but all of it.
Last year was a Cinderella story. As much as Cinderella stories can involve football, dog fighting and jail time. I bet Michael Vick even felt like the football version of Cinderella. The criticisms were few and far between, and I’m sure they bothered him a lot less than they might now. It was still a dream. From bottom of the barrel to top of the heap. The hits were hard, and were often, but he felt lucky just to be in position to get hit like that again.
But as the “I sure am a lucky guy” numbness wears off, the hits hurt a lot more. The joy of his return was a painkiller that doesn’t work quite as well. The criticism is a lot harder to ignore. The joy of his return that gave him earmuffs aren’t quite as soundproof. The reality of being a mobile quarterback who gets the snot knocked out of him, playing for the most passionate fans (remember, passion can go both ways) in the country doesn’t come with quite the same carefree feel as it did before.
The first three months of any romantic relationship is always the best. You don’t know about her flaws. The ones you do know about, don’t seem to be so bad. The newness and excitement for the possibilities always cast a really blinding shadow over reality. The success of that relationship is really determined by how you handle it when the newness wears off.
In Michael Vick’s case, that newness wearing off is going to come with newfound criticsm and a hand and head that hurt like hell. If Vince Young (or Mike Kafka) plays and wins on Sunday, it’ll even come with people doubting whether he was or is the right quarterback for the Eagles.
Vick has passed many of life’s tests in the last few years with flying colors, but this may be the hardest one of all.