PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick got to thinking about what might have been the other day.
As the fallout settled from his mind-boggling performance against Washington on Monday night, Vick said he daydreamed about a parallel reality where he gets drafted by the Eagles, applies himself to learning the quarterback position, and never takes that unwanted two-year "hiatus" from the NFL.
"Things certainly happen for a reason," Vick said before practice Wednesday, "but I just thought about that three or four days ago. If I could've started my career here, where would I be? Would I have ended up in some of the things that I got involved in? You never know."
Things happened the way they did. Good and bad. And the honest truth is that it took an almost impossible sequence of events for Vick and the Eagles to be where they are right now -- sending uniform jerseys off to the Hall of Fame in Canton, preparing for a first-place showdown with the New York Giants, the whole crazy story.
Last off-season, the Eagles would have sent Vick to another team for a decent draft pick. No one was sure enough about his rehabilitation as a man or as a football player to offer enough.
That now looks like the kind of luck the Sixers once had when Matt Geiger, of all people, sabotaged an intended trade that would have shipped Allen Iverson away before he took the franchise to the NBA Finals. Or the Phillies' good fortune when their attempts to move Ryan Howard were met with shrugs -- imagine watching him hit all those home runs and win a World Series elsewhere.
As recently as Week 2 of the regular season, Andy Reid planned for Kevin Kolb to be his starter. If Kolb hadn't gotten hurt in the opener, and if Reid hadn't made a departure from his career-long pattern of standing behind his starter, none of this would be happening.
But there's more than that.
The Vick we're seeing now likely wouldn't have developed here in the early 2000s. By his own admission, Vick wasn't ready to apply himself to film study and accept coaching back then. It took the humiliation of his very public fall from grace, of losing everything he had including his freedom, to change him.
And even then, who knows? Vick spent most of last year wondering if his otherworldly speed and sharp instincts would ever return. That uncertainty surely encouraged him to listen more closely to Reid and his staff and to alter his approach accordingly.
It is the combination of all those events and elements that produced the outburst we believe we witnessed on Monday night (still shaking the head occasionally).
But there's even more than that. Throughout most of NFL history, wide-open offenses such as the one the Eagles are deploying have been good for the occasional show but pretty much disastrous when it comes to sustained success. That's because, for most of NFL history, the rules and coaching philosophies made it possible for teams to play actual defense.
Think back to Buddy Ryan's disdain for the "run and shoot," which he called "chuck and duck." Think back to Don Coryell's teams putting up big numbers on the stat sheet and the scoreboard but always coming up short. When teams won with Bill Walsh's West Coast-style offenses, they tended to have excellent defenses as well.
Things have changed. Look around the league. Play is wide open. Defenders are limited by the rules and inhibited by the ritual handing out of fines by the league office. It is virtually a cliche to compare play to the animated action of video games.
Ever since the defensive-minded Bill Belichick posted a 16-0 record with a pinball-machine offense, the restraints have been off. The college-inspired Wildcat and spread formations have opened things up all over.
"There isn't any question that the league has become more that way," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "There are more big plays."
Reid made a point of referring to the Giants' "No. 1 defense" a couple of times. That defense gave up 68 points in two games against Dallas, plus 38 to the Colts and 29 to Tennessee.
They don't make No. 1 defenses the way they used to.
This Vick-led offense may be a happy accident for the Eagles, but it appears custom-made for these times. The speed of Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy make the Eagles very hard to catch. The rules make it very hard to make them pay physically when you do catch them.
This story is a long way from being complete, of course. This arcade-game offense hasn't been tested in December, when the weather can be a real factor. It certainly hasn't faced the kind of pressure and elevated game-planning that comes in the playoffs.
But it already has Vick daydreaming about what might have been and Eagles fans excited about what might be. That's a start.