ALLEN PARK - Joey Harrington is about to embark on the most exciting and career defining weekend of his career. When the Lions hold their initial minicamp, one of two first year head coach Rod Marinelli is allowed to hold, Harrington will meet his new quarterbacks coach, Mike Martz, architect of "The Show", the offense born from a melding of "Air Coryell" and Sid Gillman's concepts, and the two will see if Joey has what it takes to run it.
Don't blame Harrington if he approaches it with both optimism and trepidation, his very career is on the line. Martz will be charged with making a very important evaluation - can Harrington run "The Show?"
If Martz, who transformed former grocery store bagger and AFL vagabond Kurt Warner and West Virginia 6th-round pick Marc Bulger into pro bowl players at the position believes Joey has what it takes, it will go a long way toward cementing Harrington's place as the starter in Detroit for years to come. If not, Harrington could get a bus ticket out of town before April's 2006 NFL draft.
Working hands-on with Martz should prove enlightening for Harrington, a downfield passer who has been trapped in a horizontal version of the West Coast offense. Harrington should look at the meteoric rise of Bulger and say "that could be me." There is little question that he has the arm strength, intelligence and durability that The Show demands.
Now the question is can he be productive?
The knock on the former Oregon standout has been that he gets happy feet, panics at times and can be induced to make poor decisions. Working with a taskmaster like Martz should be able to cure some of that. Martz will work with Harrington not just on the concepts of The Show, but also the details that can make him successful in it.
Harrington should stick closer to Martz than a brother and try to pick his brain for all its worth. Harrington's work ethic - which has been beyond reproach to date - will be severly tested. While The Show isn't the most complicated offense, it requires full understanding and attention to detail.
The quarterback of The Show is the most important offensive player on the field. Harrington must know this and must immerse himself in it. If he isn't helping Martz move into his Allen Park offices, he should be on the phone right now. Harrington should also spend some quality off the field time with Martz, studying, learning, questioning and working.
For Joey Harrington, the next few weeks will be career defining. Will he take the leap that players like Warner and Bulger have taken or will he be another first round pick thrown onto the scrap heap currently occupied by Rick Mirer, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith and many others?
The next few weeks will go along way toward defining the career of Joey Harrington.