My girlfriend is a Patriots fan, but her knowledge of the NFL in general isn’t terribly thorough (and by that, I mean that she knows who Peyton Manning is and that’s pretty much it). So when she struck up conversation on Michael Vick and whether or not he’d come back into the league, I was just a touch surprised. It goes to show you the kind of notoriety you can get from being a monster. Anyway, she wanted my opinion on what Vick’s options were once his 23 month prison sentence was over (which will be in the summer of 2009). Her father, a fairly knowledgeable NFL fan, went as far as to say that almost every team in the league would have interest. While I wouldn’t go that far, I can think of four that would likely make a couple of phone calls.

So let’s go through them, in order of least to most likely:

Number 4: The Cincinnati Bengals

After spending five unsuccessful minutes trying to come up with a more clever opener than “It’s not like they’re above hiring criminals,” I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the best way to describe the situation is that the Bengals really are simply not above hiring criminals.

In fact, the situation in Cincy wouldn’t be that bad for Vick. Carson Palmer will be the unquestioned starter next year, and this year proves that the team has a gap at back-up quarterback (apparently, Harvard’s courseload doesn’t include a seminar on “looking off the safety”). Palmer returns to lead a still-explosive offense, and Vick sits on the bench, discussing the finer points of being human garbage with Chris Henry. League minimum salary and access to Skyline Chili is a better fate than he deserves. And he might actually get it.

Number 3: The Detroit Lions

A tradition of losing, dwindling fan support and quarterback issues in a Rust Belt town. Cincy and Detroit are eerily similar, aren’t they? Things are so desperate for the Lions that they gave the ball to a chubby retired guy after having him on the team for less than a week. So there’s certainly need. Plus the real possibility of going 0-16 for the season may drive the general manager-less Lions to a desperate and deplorable option.

The fly in the Dogfighter-Comes-To-Detroit ointment is that the Lions are likely getting the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. That means they can have their pick of top flight quarterback recruits – say, a Matthew Stafford or a Sam Bradford. Culpepper has one more year on his deal, and his role is simply that of a stopgap until a new franchise guy gets picked. The Lions may be desperate enough to give the ball to a rookie next year, but may not be desperate enough to hand it to an ex-con that’s been out of the game for two years. Well, almost out of the game.

Number 2: The Dallas Cowboys

Three factors are at work in the Big D.

1. Jerry Jones is a lunatic and takes shots on cancers like Pacman Jones.

2. Brad Johnson’s ghastly performance this year guarantees that the ‘boys will either select or post bail for a back-up quarterback for 2009.

3. Jerry Jones is a lunatic and takes shots on cancers like Pacman Jones.

Can’t you imagine Vick wearing the blue star? I know I can.

Number 1 (aka The Almost Certain Future Home Of Ron Mexico): The Oakland Raiders

There are no words that could describe how much of a mess Oakland is right now. Just Google Image Search Al Davis. That guy’s making the personnel decisions. He holds “measurables” in the highest regard and doesn’t take into account things like “character” and “past criminal activities” into account when building a roster. Plus, the Black Hole is likely the only fanbase in professional football that would accept Vick into the fold without question. That’s not a knock on them per se, so much as a reminder of their baffling passion. The creepy thing is that he could walk into Oakland and at least challenge JaMarcus Russell for the starting job. With an interim coach at the helm and a wacko prepared to comb the depths of the NFL ranks to find a new one, you may see Vick under center with a confused retread on the sidelines telling him to run a draw play.

The problem with professional football is that it’s really hard. It’s so hard that half the teams have some sort of problem with their quarterback. Or quarterback and back-up quarterbacks. Or quarterback, back-up quarterbacks and ownership. With hundreds of millions of dollars floating around in every organization, desperation can drive a team to do crazy things. Once Vick walks out of jail waiving his hands to the assembled media, the countdown starts to the next big crazy thing.

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