ALLEN PARK - In the words of the late, great Hank Stram, "this is the NFL, which means, not for long."
Stram, at the time, was referring to how long the league would tolerate an officials bad calls, but the statement, at least in terms of the NFL, is profound.
Once a player enters the league, a little clock begins ticking away and it begins counting down until the time the team deems you expendable, no longer worth the money it's paying you and then "DING!", you're gone, released, cut, terminated, let go, outta here.
It doesn't matter if you are first round pick or an undrafted free agent, that clock just keeps ticking. It's only the truly great ones who can stave off the relentless counting off the clock and go out on their own terms.
For the Lions, players like Barry Sanders, Robert Porcher and Herman Moore were among the few who could stave off the clock and even in Porcher and Moore's case, they were only able to hit the 'snooze' button.
It has happened to high profile quarterbacks like Ryan Leaf to Rick Mirer, Akili Smith and Cade McNown.
That clock is ticking now on Joey Harrington and the sound must be deafening to both Harrington and the man that drafted him, Lions president and general manager Matt Millen. Harrington is coming off his worst performance as a Lion. Harrington completed just 19-of-37 for 196 yards and five, count 'em, five interceptions for a 36.4 passer rating in Sunday's 38-6 loss at Chicago.
Worse for Harrington is that other young quarterbacks have come into the league and found success more quickly, such as Byron Leftwich in Jacksonville, Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, and Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh -- showing that the three-year rule, normally applied to young quarterbacks, isn't necessarily a constant. Thus in year four for Harrington, the clock ticks and you know that soon it's going to go, "DING".
Millen must at least be considering the possibility, if he hasn't already, that Harrington will not only not be a star in the NFL, he may not even be a serviceable quarterback. Maybe he'll turn out to be a Gus Frerotte or an A.J. Feeley - just good enough to make a roster - but never good enough to be a quality starter. If that's the case, what does Millen do next?
He could start negotiations to grab a Drew Brees, the one proven starter in the NFL who is likely to be available, but the cost will be high. He could try to pry away a serviceable backup like Jon Kitna of Cincinnati or Billy Volek of Tennessee and hope they aren't the second coming of Scott Mitchell.
Or he could just sit and watch the clock.
Everyone knows its coming, is it sooner or is it later? Who knows, but when it goes DING, it'll be Adios Joey, it was nice knowing ya.
COLUMN: Clock Ticking On Harrington
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