McMahon versus Joey: The Debate

LionsFans.com insider Mike Fowler and publisher Nate Caminata square off on the Harrington, McMahon debate. Who should start? Who should sit?

Why McMahon should have gotten the call on Sunday
Players want McMahon, who has outplayed Harrington in practice.

By Mike Fowler - Lions Insider

(ALLEN PARK) - While the Lions have chosen Joey Harrington to be the starter on Sunday, maybe they shouldn't have.

Football is a small fraternity that is made up of hard working guys who get beaten up in a very physical game. One thing players hate with a passion is a guy who is on the field because he has connections. Whether its the coach's son, the owner's boy or whatever, players really detest and resent it when a guy gets on the field due to pedigree rather than production.

So it is that undercurrent of discontent that is growing in the Lions locker room in respect to Harrington. Several players have stated, off the record, that they believe that Mike McMahon deserves a chance to play. Some feel McMahon is one of them - a hard working guy who isn't afraid to get down and dirty to win.

That is why, when Tony Siragusa of Fox Sports said that Joey Harrington was a "champagne and caviar" type of guy, a guy who's on the "other side of the club than me", some players privately chuckled.

Still, that all goes out the window if a guy is productive. So when Harrington and the rest of the Lions busted out with a 4-2 start and the QB sported a lofty 90.9 passer rating early in the season, the team was squarely behind him. But then came a four-game losing streak, a 1-6 won-loss record over a seven-week period where the Lions played themselves out of the playoff race.

Harrington played poorly during that period of time and many in the locker room lost confidence in his ability to make plays. They wanted a change.

It only raised expectations when McMahon went 11-of-15 in mop up duty in a blowout loss to Indianapolis. McMahon openly lobbied to play, although he tempered his comments with respect for Harrington's play.

However, many of the players buy into what McMahon has said openly, if all things were equal financially, he - not Harrington - would be the starter. So some players believe that McMahon would give Detroit a shot at winning the last three games and making the playoffs.

But Lions president Matt Millen wants to give Harrington every opportunity to "get it". Remember he drafted Harrington and he signed him to a long-term contract to be the face of the new Lions. It was his decision to jettison Charlie Batch despite his production and now he's faced with the growing spectra of having blown the 3rd overall pick in a badly fading Harrington. Since the Lions are setting up to be a true playoff contender in 2005, he feels that why not give Harrington one last shot to show he can be Drew Brees.

Millen has seen the worst of McMahon and doesn't believe he's the answer.

Mariucci isn't sure that he is either, but is intrigued with his physical gifts McMahon brings to the table. Being a quarterback guru, he wants to tinker with trying to turn McMahon into another Jeff Garcia, a player who's skill set he seems to match.

The bottom line, though, is that the Lions can't afford to make a mistake with the high-priced Harrington. The course of least resistance is to keep Harrington as the starter and allow McMahon to walk away in free agency. Some of the players don't like it, Mariucci doesn't like that air in the locker room, but they'll all live with it.

Harrington is the starter now, but the bigger question is whether he'll be the guy in 2005.

Why Harrington is and should remain starter in Detroit
The annual media and fan blame game is leaving everyone but Joey Harrington out.

By Nate Caminata - Publisher (and Mike's boss...)

Joey Harrington must feel a lot like Charlie Brown by now.

Selected by a franchise that hasn't produced a winning quarterback since Jack Lambert guest-starred on Wagon Train, the pressure facing Harrington in his first three years rivals that of the poor sap who will have to eventually replace Brett Favre in Green Bay.

So far, he hasn't made much headway. But he also hasn't received much help.

While, naturally, the quarterback will assume much of the blame, Harrington can rightfully delegate some of his shortcomings to his supporting cast. Namely: Wide receiver's Tai Streets, Roy Williams, Az-Zahir Hakim, and obviously, tight end Stephen Alexander. Without a doubt, the absence of Charles Rogers turned out to be overwhelming.

But to even use the term 'disconcerting' would be an understatement when describing Harrington's receiving core. Since entering the league, the former Duck has had more passes dropped than any other quarterback in the National Football League. Quack.

In 2004, improvement hasn't yet emerged. But it isn't as though the Lions front office isn't trying.

In fact, the Lions' annual WHY (What the Hell went wrong this Year) award can be shared between Alexander and Streets -- both enjoying (or collapsing) their first year in Detroit. Among his routine follies, Alexander has dropped two uncontested touchdown tosses that would have resulted in two wins. Streets, meanwhile, has pulled a Houdini. And when the former Michigan standout does return from his disappearing act, his hands generally don't make the trip.

Indeed, Harrington is responsible for some offensive inadequacy, and whether he likes it or not, that is unacceptable. That comes with the job -- especially with his salary. Harrington has overthrown receivers, displaying poor accuracy, and has made questionable decisions -- whether it is visually missing open receivers or throwing to the opposing team. So he isn't without fault. But for every Harrington miscue there is a Harrington success blundered by a receiver.

Oddly enough, however, the anti-Harrington crowd has turned much of their support to Mike McMahon, who has a career completion percentage just above freezing. Does anything more need to be said? The knock on McMahon coming out of college four years ago was his accuracy. And, if the coaching staff hasn't developed enough faith in him via practice in four years, they never will.

Yet McMahon would be a better option than Harrington? Please.

The truth is, McMahon isn't going to return next year, and assuming he'll compete for a starting job elsewhere when he couldn't supplant a struggling Harrington is ludicrous.

Joey Harrington will return for a fourth year as starting quarterback in Detroit, a year in which many quarterbacks begin to shine (Drew Brees comes to mind) -- perhaps even a veteran acquisition at quarterback could push him to perform better. Regardless, with a healthy Rogers and hopefully a competent supporting cast, he'll have his chance to flourish.

In the meantime, any thoughts to a McMahon-led season revival should be put on ice.


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