Coach Steve Mariucci didn't put it in those exact words, but Garcia's performance in the Lions' 13-10 victory at Cleveland and Mariucci's glowing praise afterward left little doubt regarding his status.
"He didn't get sacked," Mariucci said. "He's got some great escapability, as you know. He can improvise, he makes plays with his legs, along with his arm and his head and his smarts.
"But he's made plays with his legs, and that puts him into that athletic quarterback category you saw today. I just think if he's healthy, he'll get better and better."
Although his performance against the Browns isn't likely to win Garcia a fourth Pro Bowl trip, it was a shot of adrenalin and energy for the Lions, whose offense had been sluggish and unproductive in the first five games of the season.
His numbers were adequate -- 22 completions in 34 passing attempts for 210 yards. No touchdowns, no interceptions. He netted only 1 yard on four rushing attempts, but his yard was the result of a dive into the end zone when he couldn't find an open receiver.
Not bad for a player with just one week of practice, just seven weeks removed from a broken left fibula and badly sprained left ankle suffered in the Lions final preseason game Sept. 2 at Buffalo.
Garcia split the reps last week with Harrington, the Lions starter since the third game of his rookie season in 2002, and was amazingly effective in his first start of the season against the team that cut him at the end of the past season.
What made his first start particularly impressive was the fact he made three or four plays when it seemed there was no play to be made -- connecting with Mike Williams for a 49-yard completion when it looked as if the Browns had him trapped for a sack, getting a 10-yard gain on a shovel pass to running back Shawn Bryson as he was being dragged down by Browns defenders, and avoiding a safety with a 10-yard throw to wide receiver Scottie Vines.
The job won't get any easier for Garcia. The Lions receiving corps is in a state of disarray with Roy Williams recovering from a quadriceps injury that has cost him the past two games, Charles Rogers three games into a four-game substance abuse suspension, veteran Kevin Johnson suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in the Cleveland game and rookie Williams playing with a tight hamstring and a sore back.
The Bears defense feasted on Harrington in the first meeting. Chicago forced him into poor decisions because of consistent pressure, which led to five interceptions and two sacks in a 38-6 victory.
Despite being hobbled in the pocket, the Lions kept Garcia from being sacked and he in turn didn't throw an interception. He has been sacked once every 20.8 pass attempts over his seven-year NFL career.
"I think I was barely scratching the surface (Sunday)," Garcia said. "Just being able to get out there, being able to compete and not worry about dealing with an injury but fight through it, being able to make plays and get some drives going, I'm not at all satisfied or excited about the fact we didn't get the ball in the end zone more than one time. There's nothing really to be excited about that."
DETROIT PERSONNEL NOTES