OPINION: Garcia's Time Nearing

ALLEN PARK - Let's stop kidding ourselves about the Lions quarterbacking situation, not only is it bad, but it can't continue.

The tenure of Joey Harrington is about to come to an end in Detroit and when it does, it'll be the one of the worst kept secrets in the NFL. Columnists and observers all over the NFL scene have come to the same conclusion, Harrington (52.7 QB rating, rank 32nd in the NFL) isn't going to get the job done in Detroit.

Now let's get one thing straight - this isn't to say that Joey Harrington can't play. What it does mean is he isn't a West Coast Offense quarterback. Harrington has had four years to try to tailor his skills to first Marty Mornhinweg's and now Steve Mariucci's offense and he's had all the success of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - it just doesn't work.

Steve Mariucci recently told the media that the four key attributes of a west coast quarterback are timing, decision-making, accuracy and mobility. Harrington has none of the four. Where Harrington excels is in reading defenses, throwing the intermediate ball and improvising on the fly. His indoctrination into the WCO has taken away almost all his improvisational skills and Detroit hardly ever calls the intermediate passing play.

See a difference in Harrington's play in the hurry up or no-huddle offense?

On the flip side, guess who has all those WCO attributes? Jeff Garcia, who is rehabbing right now from a broken fibula and is currently about two weeks away from being ready to play in an emergency situation. Once Garcia is healthy, Harrington's leash will become shorter until Garcia finally gets into a game. And that will end Harrington's tenure in Detroit.

Several teams, most notably the Kansas City Chiefs, like Harrington and believe that given an opportunity in their system, could revive his flagging fortunes. That might be true, but for Detroit, how does this whole thing shakeout?

It is known that, despite having the hots to hire Mariucci (and incurring a $250,000 fine in the process), Lions president and chief operating officer Matt Millen has been less than thrilled in recent weeks about the offense's productivity or the lack of it. He would like to see the team open it up a bit. But that isn't Mariucci. He was blasted by Terrell Owens when both were in San Francisco for being too conservative and Owens wasn't that far off the mark. Besides what is wrong with being conservative if it wins you football games?

Millen isn't going to can Mariucci and bring in a coach to tailor the offense around Harrington, because in his heart of hearts, Millen must have doubts about Harrington's ability to ever become a franchise quarterback now, too. Millen has seen the poor throws, the missed opportunites as much as any observer and he likely knows Garcia is the better option - when healthy - in the short term.

But Millen must think about the long term. Detroit can't afford to keep Harrington as a backup at over $8 million per season and he isn't likely to restructure to be a backup, he'll want to go elsewhere. So what do the Lions do in the long term? Garcia is 35-years old and wouldn't be much more than a stopgap.

One thing they cannot do is try to force feed Dan Orlovsky or any other college quarterback, not when there are a few WCO quarterbacks who will likely be available this offseason. San Diego's Drew Brees would be a costly option, but the best one.

Arizona's Josh McCown will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and runs a similar system for the Cardinals. Atlanta's Matt Schaub has shown that he can be productive in the short passing game. Tennessee's Billy Volek has played at a high level over a few game stretch and fan favorite Jon Kitna might be pried away from the Bengals for the right price.

Millen needn't worry about the legacy of drafting a player with a top 10 pick and not having it pan out. It's happened plenty of times before with other early selections such as Ryan Leaf in San Diego, Akili Smith in Cincinnati, Cade McNown in Chicago, Rick Mirer in Seattle and the list goes on and on.

It'll be even easier when the Houston Texans likely let go of David Carr, who was the first overall pick in 2002.

Once the inevitable happens and Harrington moves on, it'll be better for him, better for the Lions and even better for long-suffering Lions fans.

See, in every cloud there can be a silver lining.

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