Column: Can You Do It, Joey?

Now that former three-time pro bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia has signed a one-year contract to play for the Lions, it's up to starting quarterback Joey Harrington to save both himself and the Lions organization from an embarassing and messy scenario where he plays poorly, loses his starting job and is released due to salary cap considerations.

ALLEN PARK - As we used to say back in the neighborhood, Joey Harrington's on "front street". What happens to the Detroit Lions offense and his future is squarely in his hands. So while he's enjoying a well deserved golf vacation in Ireland, I'll say 'have fun, hit 'em straight, clear your head and come back ready to play some football and play it at a high level'.

How's Doonebeg, anyway?

Look, it's now clearly up to Harrington to live up to the promise of being drafted third overall in the 2002 NFL draft to play like it. Up to now, he's been a big disappointment. Harrington was the lowest rated full time starter to retain his starting position going into the 2005 season, with the exception of first-year starter Carson Palmer.

At various times during last season head coach Steve Mariucci openly flirted with the idea of replacing Harrington as the starter but didn't have enough confidence in the departed Mike McMahon (Philadelphia) follow through.

Now with former three-time pro bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia waiting in the wings Mariucci won't have that kind of hesitation. If Harrington doesn't produce at a consistently high level, the coach knows he has someone who is capable of doing so, despite his 35 years of age, at his disposal.

In fact, with Garcia only on a one-year contract, it's not much of a stretch to believe he'll see some playing time before this season is over. For Garcia's part, he's playing the part of the "good soldier" saying he's here to make the position "stronger" and to support Harrington as the starter.

But for Harrington, the stakes are much higher. Unless he can hold on to the starting position, he likely won't be in Detroit too much longer. Detroit isn't going to pay a backup quarterback $5.9 million and if they release him, his reputation is going to take a hit that could take years to repair.

He can put a halt to all the quarterback controversy and put himself in the 'catbird's' seat by going out and doing what Drew Brees of the San Diego Chargers did, play up to the level that is expected of him. Brees was in a similar situation a season ago when the Chargers basically gave up on him and drafted Eli Manning first overall, then traded him for the rights to the fourth overall pick Philip Rivers of North Carolina State.

Rivers had a protracted contract holdout that gave Brees one last shot at winning the job. He did just that, and never looked back. He recently signed a one-year tender as San Diego's franchise player valued at over $8 million.

For Harrington there can be no mistaking where he is now, clearly on "front street". Beginning on April 4 - the start of the offseason workout program - until the start of the regular season, Harrington must make a serious leap forward to head off the experience Garcia has in effectively running Mariucci's west coast offense.

Does Harrington have really have what it takes to be a starting NFL quarterback? Say what you will about McMahon, but he raised at least one question worth considering; how would Harrington fare faced with head-to-head competition against a rival without any preconceived notions about who was #1?

The answers will be known somewhere between now and September.

INSIDE SLANT: The Lions yesterday added two new assistant coaches to the organization. The named Johnny Holland linebackers coach and added Phil Snow as a defensive assistant at large. Holland spent five years as linebackers and special teams coach at Green Bay before moving to Seattle as assistant special teams coach and assistant strength and conditioning coach. Snow was the defensive coordinator at University of Washington for the last two seasons.

Lions Report Top Stories