ALLEN PARK - While the Detroit Lions scour the NFL for their next head coach, once he is in place, he'll have to be prepared to hit the ground running because some key decision will have to be made that will affect his future success.
Foremost of those decisions is who will be under center for Detroit in 2006. Returning starter Joey Harrington, now a 5-year veteran will receive the most scrutinty from the new staff. Likely, Lions president and general manager Matt Millen will have picked the brain of his new on-field boss and will know what he thinks of Harrington going in. If the new boss thinks he can work with Joey, the Lions will likely attempt to restructure his deal to make it more palatable under the salary cap.
That decision will have to be made quickly since Harrington is due a $4 million roster bonus in March. If Harrington refuses to re-do his deal then he'll could be released. Harrington would probably refuse to do so if he is confident he can get a nice deal on the open market. A few teams have expressed interest in Harrington in the past, so that isn't out of the realm of possiblity.
That would leave a huge hole in Detroit's backfield. Detroit is known to have interest in Tennessee Titans backup quarterback Billy Volek. A six-year veteran, Volek is tired of backing up Titans quarterback Steve McNair and wants to play now. Factor in the Titans having the 3rd overall pick in the draft and another mobile, running quarterback like Texas' Vince Young available, Volek may get his wish.
"The Titans have a big decision in March, what to do with the quarterback position," Volek told the Tennesseean. "They know what I can do. I know I can be a starter. ... If they decide to keep me, one way or the other I have to be OK with that because I am under contract with them. But if they don't, I have to go out there and have a fun time with a quarterback-needed market."
Besides Detroit, the New York Jets and Green Bay, who courted him in 2004 are reported to be interested in the soon to be 30-year old from Fresno State.
If Volek is released by the Titans, he'll quickly move near the top of the free agent quarterback list. A smart team may offer the Titans a low round draft pick to secure his rights to avoid getting into a bidding war if he no longer figures into Tennessee's plans.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh McCown is the most palatable of the available quarterbacks simply because he is a true free agent. After passing for 1,836 yards and nine touchdowns as a part time starter, some believe the former Sam Houston State signal caller is ready to take it to the next level.
McCown looked like he was the answer to Arizona's quarterback problems when he threw for 2,511 yards, 11 touchdowns and ten interceptions, compiling a 74.1 passer rating in just his second year in the league. But coach Dennis Green had other ideas, inserting veteran Kurt Warner as the starter. Warner was lost for the season to injury and McCown got nine starts in relief.
Another quarterback who could be in the mix for Detroit is veteran David Garrard, who is still under contract with the Jaguars. Garrard kept the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoff race and help lead them to a 12-4 record in the AFC South in the absence of starter Byron Leftwich. Garrard was so effective that some observers were calling for him to become the full-time starter.
A former fourth round pick from East Carolina, Garrard passed for 1,117 yards and four touchdowns in compiling an 83.9 passer rating. Bringing in Garrard would require a trade with Jacksonville, as Garrard is tied to a contract that keeps him with Jaguars through 2009.
The new Lions coach will have to make a lot of early decisions to shape his roster in his image, none more important than his quarterback. It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out.