As the two prepare to square off in Sunday's divisional matchup at Soldier Field, Harrington -- now a four-year veteran -- identifies with Orton. It was in 2002 when the fresh-faced Harrington, like Orton, was ruthlessly thrown to wolves; forced to lead a pedestrian bunch that would finish the season 3-13 under the later dismissed Marty Mornhinweg.
The student-athlete/God-like status in Eugene, Oregon had been swiftly replaced by the hard, cold reality of Detroit, Michigan.
Orton finds himself in a similar predicament. The former Purdue Boilermaker signal caller also has the big school, national power endorsement, but that doesn't necessarily translate into immediate professional success. Just ask Harrington. Or most Lions' fans.
Accustomed to winning consistently in college, the former Duck's career winning percentage floats just below freezing. That hasn't exactly eased Harrington's transition, although he's confident he knows the solution.
"Any fan will embrace someone who is winning," he said. "... I'm the same person I was when I came out of college. I haven't changed. My morals haven't changed. The way I approach the game hasn't changed.
"When you're the quarterback of the team then it's going to come down on your shoulders and I understand that. But what I will say is I want to win more than anybody in this city."
Orton experienced a fair share of winning at Purdue, but is 0-1 in Chicago after a forgettable season opener at Washington. Still very green, Orton continues to learn the intricacies of a pro offense, along with getting comfortable with the team's personnel.
Perhaps it was apropos that Harrington's advisement to Orton was more of a warning flare.
"What advice? Just keep chucking it," said Harrington. "There's going to be some good things that happen but there's going to be some really bad things and not for any other reason other than you're a rookie and you don't know what you don't know."
Harrington has experienced more downs than ups thus far into his NFL career. In fact, having Orton watch early Harrington game film might have the same affect as showing student drivers a graphic accident video. Yet, given time, hope seems to spring eternal. After a painful start, the Lions' starting quarterback has improved each season; many analysts even have the Lions winning the NFC North division in 2005.
Whether he blossoms any sooner, Harrington believes Orton has pro potential.
"He's got a great arm, he's got great poise for a young quarterback," he said. "He's going to be a great player in this league. But things happen so quickly."
The speed of the game doesn't necessarily slow down, either, Harrington warned. Yet it is more about establishing a comfort level.
"The pace of the game slowing down has everything to do with you being comfortable," he said. "My first two years here we were playing musical receivers, rotating guys in and out of the lineup, guys getting hurt. It was a rough couple of years as far as trying to build any sort of comfortable relationship with any of the guys out there.
"And so if Kyle can develop a relationship with a receiver or some of the receivers, get comfortable with some of the basic stuff that they do on offense, then yeah, I think it has a good chance to slow down for him."
Until then, taking lumps as a rookie quarterback in the National Football League is inevitable. A history major in college, Orton might want to take a few notes.
"I remember one of my first two years we were playing the Raiders. I had a
route on the backside, I had a deep in-route," Harrington said. "I had pre-snap
coverage, I knew what they were going to play. I knew where everybody was going.
I had it locked in my mind. And at the snap of the ball everything happened like
I thought it would. I looked off (the defenders) and I came back and I threw a
perfect strike to my guy coming in and Rod Woodson stepped in front and picked
"Afterwards I went up to him and I asked him, "How did you get that? I knew what coverage you were in, I knew where everybody was going, that was the perfect route for it. He said, 'Son, I've seen that route every day in practice and I've seen it every Sunday for 12 years, you're not going to fool me on that.'"
Packaged with a few years of hard-knock football life under his belt -- and a
clear idea of what not to do -- Harrington offered some concluding advice.
"As much as you think you know, you don't know until you know, you don't know until you do it. You don't know until you get out there and experience it. See what works, see what doesn't work.
"Not all of football in the NFL is drawn up like it is on paper."