Column: Who's In Charge?

Once again the familiar stench of meddling is emanating from Fortress Lion.

Steve Mariucci has to be smarter than this, right?

He has won too many games, developed too many good quarterbacks, and been around too many solid football minds, to still believe that Joey Harrington can still effectively lead the Detroit Lions this season. . . Right?


Even I, a guy who has been on Mariucci since opening day for his questionable playcalling and game management decisions, must give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

If there is one thing that Steve Mariucci knows, it's quarterbacks; and right now Joey Harrington isn't one. He's just playing one on T.V.

You know it. I know it. Steve Mariucci knows it.

Without question, Joey Harrington's performance over the last seven weeks has earned him a place on the bench. Over the last seven weeks, Harrington has plunged head first into the Karl Sweetan/Rusty Hilger realm of Lion quarterbacks. He has also given no indications that he will recover anytime soon.

Harrington's 47 yards passing last Sunday against the Packers is the sixth lowest total in franchise history. He has thrown for over 200 yards just three times this season, which is an abomination in today's high flying NFL. Over the last five games, Kevin Jones has 636 yards rushing, while Harrington has passed for just 611 yards.

That kind of production is U-G-L-Y any way you slice it.

In addition to Harrington's putrid numbers, backup QB Mike McMahon, with a tip of the cap to Peyton Manning, has been getting a larger number of the practice snaps since he relieved Harrington in the second half of the Thanksgiving Day Massacre back on November 25th.

So with all this as the backdrop, the question remains. . . .

Why is Steve Mariucci going to trot out Hindenburg Harrington once again this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings?

Apparently, the reason is that somebody, or a group of somebodies, in the Lions' front office is telling him to do so.

If that is the case, then the same old pattern of front office meddling that has doomed this franchise for the better part of the last half-century has once again reared its hideous head.

It's William Clay Ford Sr. versus George Wilson all over again. It's Russ Thomas versus Joe Schmidt – or Russ Thomas versus Monte Clark – or Russ Thomas versus fill-in-the-blank. It's William Clay Ford Sr. making a phone call to congratulate Erik Kramer on his promotion to starter, when it was actually Kramer who was the QB that just got demoted.

The history is plentiful and the picture is clear – that picture being that the Lions' hierarchy has never known when to make a decision, and when to get the hell out of the way.

If that meddling menace has reared its ugly head once again in the direction of Steve Mariucci; then he, like Wilson, Schmidt and Clark before him, is ultimately doomed as the Head Coach of the Detroit Lions.

A head coach, regardless of the sport, must be given total autonomy when it comes to game day personnel decisions. The head coach must have the final say in who starts, and who sits, when the game begins. The head coach must also have the final say when it comes to preparing their starters, and their backups, in practice. If the head coach is undermined in any way, shape, or form when making those decisions, then that coach's authority is destroyed. Once a head coach's authority is destroyed, the influence and control he has over his players is soon to follow.

Do I think Mike McMahon is the longterm answer for Detroit's quarterback woes? No, not at all. In fact, I said last offseason – when the Lions were dangling McMahon as trade bait – that if I was an NFL GM, I wouldn't trade a bucket of KFC and two porno mags for him.

However, there comes a time when a player, regardless of their position, salary, or draft selection, must be held accountable for their performance. That time has come and gone with Joey Harrington.

At this point can Mike McMahon play any worse? What is he going to do, go 4-for-23, for 37 yards?

Steve Mariucci can tell all of us until he is Honolulu Blue in the face to the contrary, but no one will convince me that he still believes that Joey Harrington can get the job done this season.

He is too smart, and too experienced, to believe that.

Steve Mariucci has developed too many quarterbacks during his coaching career to be second guessed on who his starter should be at that position.

He has earned the right to choose his own quarterback.

Let's hope for his sake that someone hasn't taken that right away.

Questions or Comments on this story: Contact Doug Warren at

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