"I think that's true in the college level and in the pro level... ">
"I think that's true in the college level and in the pro level... ">

Mooch counting on improvement

Steve Mariucci wasn't even around for quarterback Joey Harrington's first NFL season but he knows what he expects in Harrington's second season -- improvement. <br><br> "I always anticipate the sophomore season to be a real jump over the first year," said Mariucci, who was hired as the Lions coach in February after six seasons at San Francisco. <br><br> "I think that's true in the college level and in the pro level...

"The second year around they've seen most everything, they know what to expect, and they know the system. It really helps that he's had the same system."

Harrington, the Lions' first-round pick in 2002, broke into the NFL with the same strain of the West Coast offense that Mariucci is feeding him this year. Harrington got it as a rookie from Marty Mornhinweg, who was Mariucci's offensive coordinator for two years at San Francisco. Mornhinweg was fired Jan. 27 but when Mariucci was hired as his replacement, the Lions offensive system stayed essentially the same. The question now is how much Harrington can improve under Mariucci after learning the fundamentals under Mornhinweg.

Harrington started 12 games before suffering an irregular heartbeat in the 14th game and sitting out the rest of the season. He completed 50.1 percent of his passes (215 of 429) for 2,294 yards with 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Although Harrington struggled at times and seemed to be overloaded with the system and the playbook at other times, Mornhinweg felt it was important that Harrington grind through the first season, regardless of the degree of difficulty.

Harrington survived West Coast 101, older and wiser for the experience. And now he is getting West Coast 201 from Maruicci. In the Lions current organized team activity (OTA) sessions, Mariucci is putting as much pressure in Harrington's face as possible, hoping to simulate the defenses he will see in the regular season. The blitz periods might be frustrating for Harrington when his passes miss the target but Mariucci believes they will go far in the young quarterback's education.

"Obviously, what you're going to have are guys coming free," Mariucci said. "You're going to have crowded vision lanes, you're going to have tight coverage, you're going to have the offense win some, the defense win some and the more you do it, the better you get."

Mariucci says he is using the whole/part/whole system in teaching Harrington the finer points of the quarterback job.

"You give 'em a lot of material and not much of it sticks," Mariucci said. "Then you go back and you detail it, and then you get to the parts and detail. Then you work back toward the whole.

"Right now we're getting a lot of everything. We'll go back and detail it in training camp. By the time the first preseason game comes around, we'll have 80 or 90 percent of our offensive and defensive schemes presented, and hopefully it gets better as time goes on."

And if Harrington lives up to Mariucci's expectations, he'll be a step closer to being a winning quarterback in his second NFL season.

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