By Joel Poiley
Michael Vick always respected the mentors and coaches who helped him throughout his college and professional football career.
They left such an impression, that as Vick’s impressive 13-year career wound down, he realized he wanted to help young players the same way. He expressed that interest when he played for Andy Reid in Philadelphia, and Reid, now coaching in Kansas City, invited Vick to assist during the Chiefs’ 2017 training camp.
As good fortune had it, former Minnesota head coach Brad Childress was helping Reid as an offensive analyst and assistant coach. Childress and Vick had a pre-existing bond, and when Childress was named head coach for the Atlanta franchise of the Alliance of American Footbal this last April, he knew Vick was a great fit as his offensive coordinator.
“First of all, he’s a great, great competitor. I respect that fact,” Childress said about Vick. “Having coached against him, he has jumped us a couple times. And we jumped on him a couple times. So there’s that camaraderie there.
“Last year, Andy brought him in as a coaching assistant for training camp. When he spoke in the quarterback room, everybody from Alex Smith to Chase Daniel to anybody who was in there, they all turned and listened.
“It was obvious the respect he commanded. He knew our offense and could spit it out verbatim. So I’m very excited to have him as our offensive coordinator.”
For Vick, getting his first full-time coaching opportunity with Childress, in the city he starred in the first six years of his dynamic career, made perfect sense.
“My heart is really into teaching the game of football,” Vick said. “I feel like I’ve learned so much from so many great coaches over the years. I would definitely love to work with young quarterbacks and develop them and compete for a championship.
“(The Alliance) is a process about what it takes to become a complete football player, on and off the field. You’re not in college anymore; you’re not going to class. Your full-time job is football. And that creates structure for you.”
“But at the same time, you have to know what you want out of the game. As players and coaches, we’ve all experienced the importance of being a professional. That’s a responsibility we take seriously, and we look forward to watching these young men grow from college to pro and continue their careers as long as they want.”
Childress said he’s looking forward to working with Vick because their coaching styles mesh well.
“Just having been out there, behind everything, he’s going to have an idea what our guys can do and he’ll know when to call a screen, when to call a draw and when to run by the corner because he [the cornerback] can’t run,” Childress said.
Sometimes players who achieved at an extraordinarily high level – which Vick definitely did – have difficulty translating that knowledge to next-generation players. But Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, is all in on the transition from player to coach.
“Now I can watch it from the sideline, and the key is not to get frustrated with a guy who can’t see the same things that we see,” Vick said. “That’s the fun part about this. You see it one week and you don’t get it done. Can you grow and be a mature player and be mature enough to get it done the next week? That’s what coaching is all about.”
No doubt fans in Atlanta, who supported Vick before and after his time in a Falcons uniform, can’t wait to see what type of plays Childress and Vick dial up when play in The Alliance begins February 9.
“Atlanta is so diverse, with people from all different backgrounds and nationalities, and they gravitate to sports,” Vick said. “I know back in 2003-2004 the [Georgia] Dome was packed with fans of all sorts, and that’s what made it such a lively atmosphere. And that’s what made people want to be part of the football and sports culture.
“I’m committed to paying it forward, helping players grow and putting some of my ideas into action on the football field,” he said. “To do this in Atlanta just makes it that much sweeter. I want to bring a championship to Atlanta. It’s always been a dream of mine, and now I have another shot.”