SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA — Michael Vick is no longer an NFL-caliber quarterback, but he can still throw the damn football. Give him time in the pocket, and he can hit a receiver running a wheel route in stride. He can survey the field and thread the needle through traffic.
I know this because I saw him sling it in San Jose in the year 2017, two years after he last played in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Vick took part in an exhibition put on by the American Flag Football League, a venture started by investor Jeff Lewis, who wanted to show off the variation on football that trades tackling for grabbing a flag attached to a player’s hips.
The end result is a 7-on-7 game that values speed and athleticism above all else, and Lewis is betting that football fans want fast fun more than they want the visceral violence and rigid structure the NFL currently offers. The June 26 event was a trail balloon meant to showcase an alternative—not a replacement—for the most popular sports league in America.
And the result was indeed fun. Once the players familiarized themselves with the sport’s rules quirks and the speed of the game, the product was entertaining. Vick threw eight touchdowns and had 547 yards passing in a 64-41 running clock exhibition as part of what Lewis called a “document” of legitimacy for the sport of flag football itself.