NBC’s Mike Florio Speculated Michael Vick Rigged Games During His Final Falcons Season

Article Highlights:

  • NBC Sports reporter Mike Florio openly speculated about whether former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick rigged games
  • The ProFootballTalk founder cited Vick’s inconsistent play during the 2006 season, his final before a dogfighting scandal sent him to prison
  • Although Florio’s theory is intriguing, there are too many logistics involved in potentially throwing games

As more professional sports leagues have embraced legalized sports gambling, there are understandable questions about an athlete potentially throwing games or intentionally underperforming to ensure a specific outcome. There are also concerns, as the Atlanta Falcons recently realized with veteran receiver Calvin Ridley, about players betting on games involving their team.

NBC Sports’ Mike Florio hasn’t ruled out the idea that the Falcons, well over a decade before Ridley entered the league in 2018, may have employed a player who potentially knowingly sabotaged his team’s chances at victory.

The player in question? Former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

NBC Sports’ Mike Florio openly speculated about whether Michael Vick rigged games during his final Falcons season in 2006

NBC Sports' Mike Florio (L) and former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
NBC Sports’ Mike Florio (L) had an intriguing theory regarding former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick | B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images; Rex Brown/Getty Images

To be clear, Florio did not specifically accuse Vick of throwing games, nor did he report anything specific. What we’re about to discuss is a theory, albeit an extremely interesting one.

In his new book Playmakers, Florio dedicated a portion of his section on off-field player conduct to Vick’s dogfighting scandal. Although the quarterback wasn’t arrested, and eventually sentenced, until 2007, investigators determined the dog fights sponsored by “Bad Newz Kennels” had been held at the Virginia Tech’s property since at least 2002.

So, what does any of this have to do with Vick potentially rigging games? Florio shared his theory, one he said he’s publicly discussed in the past, about the quarterback’s inconsistent season and the Falcons’ 7-9 finish. Atlanta lost five of its final seven games after a 5-2 start.

“Statistically, Vick showed wild swings from great games to horrible games. In this world of dogfighting, which fundamentally was a platform for gambling, is it ridiculous to think that another dogfighter might have threatened to blow the whistle on Vick’s secret lifestyle if he didn’t agree to have a well-timed poor game that contributed to his team’s failure to win or [an] inability to cover whatever point spread applied?”

Mike Florio

As Florio noted, the NFL seemingly did not consider that question. The league punished Vick for violating its player conduct policy as a result of the dogfighting.

Although Vick’s 1,039 rushing yards set an NFL quarterback record that season, he only completed 52.6% of his passes for 20 touchdowns (a career high) and 13 interceptions. Over his final nine games, Vick had four outings in which he completed less than 53% of his passes. He also threw 10 touchdowns against eight interceptions in that stretch.

Although Florio’s theory is intriguing, there are too many logistics involved in potentially throwing games

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick walks off the field after a 2006 loss | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Before going any further, we must make it clear that we are not accusing Vick of rigging games. The following opinions relate only to Florio’s theory, one he has felt comfortable sharing in the past before publishing it in his new book.

Could Vick, theoretically, have rigged games during the 2006 season? Sure. Quarterbacks, especially established ones such as Vick, are one of the few football players who would have the ability to intentionally underperform over a sustained period of time in a given game without having to worry about being benched or not touching the ball. Then-head coach Jim Mora almost certainly wasn’t going to bench Vick, the Falcons’ superstar dual-threat quarterback.

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend Vick was a receiver or a tight end. If he struggled with drops (read: intentionally dropped passes), Mora and the Falcons would have either benched him or limited his targets. A linebacker who showed low effort on multiple plays or a center whose snaps were just a bit too high would likely be replaced in the lineup. Compare that to a kicker, who could intentionally miss multiple kicks knowing he doesn’t have a traditional backup.

But what if Vick wanted to throw games without making it obvious? All it takes is one overthrow or scrambling and running for a 2-yard gain on third down when a receiver is open 15 yards downfield to potentially skew the outcome. That much is possible, but it just sounds too difficult to believe.

With that said, Vick admitted in a 2018 interview with USA Today Sports that he helped his fellow inmates pick games and set their fantasy football lineups. Do with that what you will.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in 2006.
Did Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick throw games in 2006? | Bob Snow/Macon Telegraph/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

As for the idea that Vick’s performances were too inconsistent in 2006, let’s not forget he completed 53.8% of his passes in six seasons with the Falcons and later admitted to not studying hard enough.

The bottom line is that at no point in the last 15 years have we heard anything credible about those in Vick’s camp encouraging him to throw games. Although the theory is intriguing, we might have to wait until Florio’s next book to learn the potential truth about what happened during the Falcons’ 2006 campaign.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the National Council on Problem Gambling helpline at 1-800-522-4700. Text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.

RELATED: Michael Vick Remains Disappointed in How He Handled His Dogfighting Scandal: ‘That’s a Blemish That I Will Never Be Able to Erase’