ALLEN PARK - With a full coaching staff implemented in Detroit, Lions' GM Matt Millen held a media briefing on Tuesday to talk about, well, what everyone wants to talk about.
The Lions quarterback situation.
Millen and Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli fielded questions from a select group of reporters, primarily dealing with fifth year quarterback Joey Harrington and whether or not the former third overall pick will return to the ball club in 2006.
The response favored Harrington's return. And, perhaps surprisingly, an indoctrination as the team's starter for next season.
"I think that we do like him and I think that he will be our guy," Millen told the official Detroit Lions web site. He has already consulted Marinelli and the rest of the coaching staff on Harrington. "And that's the way we're going to approach (free-agency). We're going to approach it like Harrington's our starter and we move forward from that.
"We coach the heck out of him, we get him into the system and we start the process."
That system, which will be designed by offensive coordinator and recognized guru Mike Martz, will hopefully extract the most of Harrington's potential -- potential the Lions' coaching staff is convinced remains untapped.
"We've all sat down, we've watched him," said Marinelli, "(Mike Martz) sees a lot of really good, positive things from this guy (and) a lot of skill, a lot of things that we like. So we're just moving right down the road with him right now and we're going to coach this guy real hard."
Martz, Marinelli and the remainder of Detroit's offensive staff all came to a similar conclusion after watching game tape of Harrington from the past year. And, ultimately, it was the tale of the tape that Marinelli said left Martz convinced his can turn Harrington into the bonafide starter Millen thought he was getting in 2001.
"Over the past weekend, we sat down and watched seven or eight games," said Marinelli. "What he saw (was) very clean -– actually he was saying this morning he was even more surprised at how good he was in terms of skills and all the tools that he has. So that was positive."
Positive for Harrington, at least, who is due a roster bonus of over $4 million in June and recent rumblings report he is unwilling to negotiate that or his $4.5 million base. However, given a much needed vote of confidence from the Lions' coaching staff (something former coach Steve Mariucci nor Dick Jauron were ever willing to yield), he might be more apt to consider a contract revisal. That issue will be approached sooner than later, though, as the Lions would like to enter the forthcoming free-agency period with enough salary cap space to be competitive.
Harrington split time with Jeff Garcia as the starter in 2005, managing 2,021 passing yards with a dozen touchdowns and interceptions in 11 starts. But his passer rating of 72.0 dropped him in the bottom rung of league starters.
It is assumed that Martz, who was credited with the development of league and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner and Pro Bowler Marc Bulger in St. Louis, will attempt to work the same magic with Harrington.
Millen said that any interest the team shows in free-agent quarterbacks will likely be for a back-up position. The Lions will not re-sign Jeff Garcia.
"From a team standpoint, that position is obviously the most important position so we've got to get that thing as strong as possible," admitted Millen. "So we want to get the best (back-up quarterback) we can. Could we trade for it? Yeah, we could trade for it, we could bid for it.
"We could do a lot of different things."