Michael Vick's message following the 2014 New York Jets' embarrassing 31-0 loss at the hands of the then-San Diego Chargers has held true throughout all these years: always be prepared.
Because "prepared" would not adequately describe how Michael Vick was feeling when he checked into the game in the second half following Geno Smith's 4-12, 27-yard, one-interception display. And as a result, Vick finished 8-19 with 47 yards and no touchdowns in an uninspiring effort at age 34. He said it himself following the miserable performance.
“Maybe I didn’t prepare or I wasn’t prepared, but I’ll tell you what, it won’t happen again,” Vick said (via Brian Costello). "I learned a lesson last week: always stay ready, always be prepared."
Now, over six years later, Vick has pulled back the curtain on that dismal performance a little bit more, calling it the moment he realized he should probably hang 'em up.
"First and foremost, Wednesday, walk in, coach tell me — I ain't gonna name no names — keep supporting Geno, you not gonna play," Vick told the "I Am Athlete" crew, including Brandon Marshall and Chad Ochocinco. "...We're like 1-6. I'm like, 'Coach, for real? I'm really not gonna get a shot?' "
But the coaching staff, including Rex Ryan, held strong to that claim leading up to the game. All throughout the week, Vick says he was told to keep supporting Geno Smith but not to expect to play as they flew out to San Diego.
"...We get down 21-0, we get into halftime, coach Rex Ryan — who I love to death, got a lot of respect for — is like, I'm going with you," Vick recalled. "I'm like, 'yo, but you told me I wasn't going to play?'
"I get in the game, man, just off veteran experience. During the week, I might be studying the plays at night a little bit but I'm not really into it. Like, you told me I wasn't going to play — mind you, that's the wrong mindset to have, so all the kids watching... always make sure that you prepare. That's my message for that."
So Vick entered the game, after being convinced (and convincing himself) that he would not step foot onto the gridiron in a Jets uniform.
"So I'm like halfway prepared... I'm like, I don't know nothing... but you know what, I know enough," Vick said. "Go in the game, [I'm] making plays but I second-guess myself at a moment when Jeremy Kerley was running wide open. I told him in the huddle, it's coming to you bro. I threw a go route to Eric Decker, single high, they locked up."
As it turns out, he should have gone with his original instincts. Kerley showed him after the fact that he was running up the field with a ton of separation between him and his defender, and it was at that point that Vick knew he was done as a top-level quarterback in the league. Quick note: Eric Decker wasn't active for that game, but we trust Vick's memory otherwise.
Vick wasn't actually done after that game — he ended up starting three times for the Jets in games nine, ten and eleven — and he still had some vintage moments left in the tank.
The next season saw Vick in a Steelers uniform after a long offseason of waiting, and his last appearance ever came in Week 6 of that 2015 season.