In a terrific profile of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in the latest edition of GQ Magazine, Vick tells writer Will Leitch that he felt Cincinnati and Buffalo might have been better options than going to Philadelphia as a third-stringer. Vick added that, after consultation with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and others, he settled on Philadelphia.
"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth," Vick told Leitch in the article. "I didn't want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options."
Leitch then writes: Those two teams wanted him and would've allowed him to start, but after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other reps from the NFL, Vick was convinced—and granted league approval—to sign with Philly. "And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation," Vick said.
Goodell is now taking quite a bit of flak for steering Vick away from Buffalo and Cincinnati and toward Philadelphia. But there's some room for interpretation here, and since Goodell isn't quoted in the article, it's fair to wonder about the context Vick was using regarding his discussions with the commissioner.
Could it have been a simple case of Vick asking Goodell for his opinion about which team was the best fit? And if that was the context of the discussion, does Goodell have the right to offer his opinion? Remember, Goodell was an active participant in Vick's rehabilitation following his prison stint for running an illegal dog-fighting operation. The two had many conversations when Vick was preparing for his return to the NFL, and Vick has said many times he appreciated Goodell's guidance during that period.
It stands to reason that Goodell should be free to state where he thought Vick would be best served to continue his career, perhaps with a caveat that it's only his opinion, and that he's not trying to steer him one way or another.
If Goodell truly took an active role in attempting to dissuade Vick from signing with Buffalo or Cincinnati, then both those teams have a right to be annoyed at that kind of involvement from the league's top official. But again, we need some context here, and so far, Goodell hasn't provided it.
UPDATE: Per NFL vice president of media relations, Greg Aiello, Goodell did not try to persuade Vick to play in Philadelphia instead of Buffalo or Cincinnati.
“Michael Vick's decision on where to play to put himself in the best position to succeed was entirely his own," Aiello said in an e-mail. "Commissioner Goodell obviously met and spoke to Michael and his representatives as part of his decision on whether to reinstate Michael and on what terms. But the commissioner would never steer players to or away from particular teams and did not do so in this case.”