Column: Garcia's Right Choice; Warner is Not

When Kurt Warner shows up in Allen Park this week, the Lions should do the following: be polite, give him the quick tour, meet with his agent, then show him the door.

ALLEN PARK - When Kurt Warner shows up in Allen Park this week, the Lions should do the following: be polite, give him the quick tour, meet with his agent, then show him the door.

While Warner is a talented quarterback who surely has a few good throws left in his right arm, he isn't the right fit for the Detroit Lions. Steve Mariucci already knows this but, because he is a team player, he defers to his GM, Matt Millen who has a few reservations the right guy for the job, Jeff Garcia.

The reasons that Garcia is the right man for the job is because he won't rock the boat. Garcia will come in and compete with Joey Harrington mightily, he push Joey harder than he's ever been pushed and he may even win the job, but he will abide by whatever decision coach Mariucci makes.

That isn't going to be the case with Warner. He is already on record as saying he wants to start for a year or two before moving to the veteran backup stage of his career. He smells blood in the water in Detroit as third-year signal caller Joey Harrington struggles to live up to being the third overall pick in 2002.

Warner has read the news stories that said the Lions were considering cutting Harrington if they couldn't re-work his contract sufficiently. He see that Harrington is worth nearly $11 million against the cap this season and he sees a QB rating with a career passer rating of 67.2 and says "that's the first place I want to visit."

Who could blame him?

Warner could compile a 67.2 passer rating with his left arm, but if the Lions intentions are to rehabilitate Harrington and start him if all things are equal, what would Warner's reaction be? He just voided a contract in New York because first overall pick Eli Manning was chosen to start in New York where Warner had compiled a 5-4 record with the Giants.

When in St. Louis, Warner's wife Brenda reportedly went on a St. Louis radio station and made it known that her husband would seek a trade if he was on the bench behind another young quarterback, Marc Bulger. Adding fuel to the fire was the inference that Warner's religious beliefs played a part in his benching.

Warner appeared to learn from the experience when he moved on to New York. Coach Tom Couglin lauded Warner as a real team player upon his exit from New York.

"Kurt's an outstanding man, a team player, a great, great guy in the locker room," Coughlin said. "Whatever you challenge him with, he will accept it, he will work his way through it. I don't think I've ever seen a guy in a circumstance like that bring the maturity and professionalism to the task at hand like he did."

Maybe, but can he be counted on to handle a situation where he might be in and out of the lineup in favor of a younger less accomplished quarterback without the pedigree that Manning had? A case can be made either way.

With Garcia, Mariucci knows exactly what he's getting. Garcia has been fiercely loyal to Mariucci in the past and vice-versa. The coach feels comfortable with a guy who had three straight pro bowl appearance during his tenure. The quarterback was extremely vocal in his criticism of management for firing his coach. The two guys have a comfort level with one another that makes Garcia's presence in Detroit the right fit.

Adding to that is that the 35-year old can still play at a high level and run Mariucci's version of the WCO more effectively than Warner, who has not played in this offense. Garcia's knowledge and experience with Mariucci, offensive coordinator Ted Tollner and wide receivers coach Fred Graves makes him a big asset as the offensive staff reworks the playbook to take advantage of teams three young stars Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Kevin Jones.

The clincher is that Garcia could step in to the Lions offense in the event of an injury or poor play by Harrington and lead the team to a playoff berth.

Matt Millen signed Steve Mariucci to a five-year, $25 million contract for a reason; he trusted him to deliver a winning team on the field. It's time for Millen to trust his coach to make the call on the quarterback who will backup and challenge the starter.

Garcia is the right choice, Warner is not.

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