Column: Fans must "snap back to reality"

Lions fans everywhere are now doubting whether drafting Joey Harrington was the right decision or not. To sum up the sense of that claim I steal a line from fellow Detroit icon Eminem, "Snap back to reality".

Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington is the talk of the town, but most of it isn't good.

Lions fans everywhere are now doubting whether drafting Joey was the right decision or not. To sum up the sense of that claim I steal a line from fellow Detroit icon Eminem, "Snap back to reality".

The definition of a bad quarterback is known too well in this city, but it's far to early to put Harrington into this category.

First off, let's look at experience. Joey just completed his 19th game, which all the history books will tell you, is way to early to judge any young, developing quarterback. From his perspective, he's got alot of things working against him. One, no run game. Joey has had to be a gunslinger, ranking seventh in the NFL with 195 attempts. Thats alot for any young arm, especially when your supporting cast is either inexperienced or incompetent.

The Lions rank 28th in rush offense, averaging a measly 3.9 yards a carry. It becomes obvious to teams that the Lions offense has only a marginal running threat, although it's starting to come together, slowly but surely.

The rest of Harrington's supporting cast isn't spectacular either, at least not yet. Behind curtain number one is rookie wide out Charles Rogers. While Rogers is very talented, he too is going through his learning process, and the two haven't been consistent with their timing and coordination. This, obviously will come with time. Montana and Rice were not instant hookups, Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman needed time, same with Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith. Five games simply isn't enough time for a young quarterback and receiver to develop a rhythm.

Behind curtain number two is Bill Schroeder, who is hated by many and loved by less. Schroeder is about as inconsistent as they come. One week he is a strong contributor, the next week he is a non-factor. His sloppy route running and very questionable hands drove Brett Favre nuts, and is likely doing the same with Joey.

How does a quarterback progress? He finds that comfort zone, he is patient in the pocket, knows the play thoroughly, and where his receivers are going to be at all times, knows his check downs, get my drift?

Joey will only progress to his full potential once he is able to build the confidence and knowledge of the system. When his receivers drop over 10 passes a game, then you start to lose confidence in them. From Joey's perspective, look at his reads, who can he trust to run the correct route and catch the ball? His most reliable safety valve last year, Mikhael Ricks, has been a major disappointment, Hakim and Schroeder still can't catch or run good routes, so who does that leave? An injured rookie in Charles Rogers. Hence all the criticism of Joey looking to him constantly.

One specific debate regarding Harrington is his success measured against Redskins' starting quarterback Patrick Ramsey, Washington's first-round pick in 2002. Mechanics wise, Joey is superior. Ramsey has played well this season, but is only viewed so highly because he is practically in quarterback heaven. He supporting cast of Laveranues Coles, Rod Gardner, Taylor Jacobs, and Trung Candidate is strong and all have good hands.

Joey has the skills, his size, arm strength and deep ball are all optimum for a quarterback, he's a natural born leader, and has deep knowledge of the west coast offense. Harrington also has a great quarterback developer with him in Steve Mariucci. Mariucci's offense isn't a overnight homework assignment -- it's gonna take time. In such a complex offense of reads, check downs and timing, it's a given that a young developing quarterback is going to require time to learn and get a feel for the offense.

Although Lions fans are anxious to see what Joey is about, they have to be patient with him. We all know Joey has it in him, just watch him in college, the comfort in the pocket, looking off the safety, going through his check downs, pin point timing ... but now hes on a different, faster level.

In a nutshell, Joey Harrington cannot be thrown to the wolves this early, let alone with an adequate supporting cast.

The decision to get a franchise quarterback was the right move, and in 2004, Harrington will be the talk of the town once again, only this time, it will be all good.


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