This has gotten really simple. If the security video from Guadalajara restaurant contradicts anything Michael Vick told police, the Eagles, or the NFL about the night of his disastrously ill-conceived "birthday party," the Eagles must cut ties with Vick immediately.
Not because that would prove Vick was involved with the shooting of his old pal and codefendant Quanis Phillips.
Not because it would mean Vick is likely to be suspended again by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The Eagles must drop Vick because their owner, Jeffrey Lurie, set very high standards for the convicted dog killer's continued employment with the team. For Lurie to have any credibility, he absolutely must hold Vick and the team to those standards.
Last August, after the Eagles' shocking decision to sign the reinstated Vick, Lurie spoke with unprecedented candor and visible anguish during a news conference at the NovaCare Complex.
Lurie talked about his own disgust with Vick's crimes, about his misgivings when coach Andy Reid proposed signing the former Atlanta quarterback. He talked about sitting down with Vick and looking into his eyes for signs of remorse and "self-hatred" for his actions. He said it wouldn't be enough for Vick simply to refrain from causing trouble.
He had to do more. He had to be more.
"If I thought for one instance that this player would be disruptive or unable to be a good teammate and not become a role model, then there's no way I would have allowed this to happen," Lurie said. "If it becomes at all apparent that we are wrong, it won't take very long to make that change."
To be blunt, it has been apparent all along that the Eagles were wrong. Vick has not been some "agent for social change" (in Lurie's words). He made a handful of uninspired appearances, telling children they shouldn't get involved in dogfighting. Vick did little, if any more, than most players whose contracts call for a few such public appearances every season.
After the Eagles' season ended, Vick did a couple of interviews that amounted to an unsuccessful campaign for a starting job elsewhere in the NFL. The rest of the league showed no interest, which was also true last summer.
To make things worse for themselves, the Eagles traded away Donovan McNabb, one of the league's true model citizens. That leaves Vick as the only experienced alternative to young starter Kevin Kolb. That move looks pretty short-sighted about now.
Vick was back in his Virginia stomping grounds last week for his football camp, for which he charged kids a reported $300 each. Last Thursday, Vick celebrated his 30th birthday with a party at Guadalajara, a Mexican restaurant and nightclub in Virginia Beach.
If you're thinking that even Mike Vick deserves the opportunity to have a milestone birthday party, consider this: The event was promoted by Star Quality Entertainment, which rented Guadalajara, as "Michael Vick's ALL WHITE 30th Birthday Bash" - referring to guests' clothing. It was open to the public at a cost of $50 per ticket. Fliers promised stars, including Allen Iverson, DeAngelo Hall, and sprinter LaShawn Merritt.
Given the bankruptcy agreement that requires Vick to pay his creditors, his swing through Virginia reeks of a quick-buck scheme.
Vick's judgment has to be evaluated accordingly. Knowing that he has, in Lurie's words, "no room for error," Vick took part in a well-promoted public event designed to cash in on his celebrity. Given his notoriety and the proximity to the associates he repeatedly has blamed for his prior mistakes, this was an enormous mistake.
Under the terms of his probation and his NFL reinstatement, Vick is not allowed to associate with felons. Presumably, there were no background checks on patrons who coughed up 50 bucks for his party. Phillips may not have been invited, but he was there and reportedly became involved in an altercation with Vick.
Lawrence Woodward, Vick's attorney, said Phillips was ejected from the club. Guadalajara spokesman Allen Fabijan told the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., that no one was ejected during the event.
Woodward said Vick was "long gone" before Phillips was shot in the leg in the parking lot. Fabijan said security video shows Vick leaving at 2:07 a.m. The shots were fired at 2:10 a.m. "from the direction" Vick's car traveled.
There is no known proof Vick willingly associated with Phillips or had anything to do with shooting him. No one is saying, based on what we know so far, that Vick should be thrown back into prison for violating his probation.
The issue is whether Vick is meeting the high standards set by Lurie. If the owner's words mean anything - if they ever meant anything - then Lurie has to follow through with action. If the video proves Vick lied - something he has a long pattern of doing - there is nothing left to discuss.
The party is over.