ALLEN PARK - Just two weeks ago, in what now seems to be a staged media event, Lions president Matt Millen and head coach Rod Marinelli sat with a selected group of reporters representing Detroit's biggest newspaper outlets and told them that Joey Harrington would be their starting quarterback. All they needed was a backup quarterback which they would pick up on the free agent market.
The briefing seemed to be called to clean up earlier remarks by Marinelli at a news conference introducing defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson and offensive coordinator Mike Martz. At that time, Marinelli would not say that Harrington would be the starting quarterback but only that "he will be one of our quarterbacks."
Flash forward to yesterday's signing of Josh McCown to a two-year contract, which for all intents and purposes ended the Joey Harrington era in Detroit. No comments came from the Lions organization at all, not Matt Millen, not Rod Marinelli, not Mike Martz, not even Lions spokesman Bill Keenist on the situation.
Why? Because the move represented a complete reversal in their thinking and in the Lions future. One that caught Lions president Matt Millen completely off guard. Millen loved Harrington. Harrington was his highest profile draft choice. A good-looking, well-spoken, ivory tinkling gentleman from the West Coast. He was an instant media darling, trading jabs with the press in their first meeting and charming the pants off everyone.
The problem was, that for Detroit, he wasn't a very good football player.
Scout.com has learned that the Lions have given Harrington permission to seek a trade and has set a Monday deadline to get a deal done. Initially, the Vikings, Chiefs and Raiders have all expressed at least some interest in acquiring the fifth-year veteran from Oregon.
It appears the Lions have come to the same conclusion that most observers came to a long time ago; that the Harrington experiment was a failure. No matter how the team tried to prop up the team's poster boy, he was mismatched in a system where he couldn't succeed.
The Lions can and should thank corner Dre' Bly for helping them come to their senses.
Bly was the most vocal locker room critic of Harrington and that appears to have been a factor in the team's move to dump the quarterback. Bly's criticial comments of Harrington were simply a reflection of what most of the players in the locker room felt.
While few would speak publicly about their lack of confidence in Harrington, privately at least five different players told me that they didn't believe they could win consistently with Harrington at the position.
Eventually, the Lions front office must have realized that the players were right. Give Matt Millen some credit for eventually coming to the same party and doing the right thing by turning the page.
At some time or another every talent evaluator makes a mistake of judgement on a certain player, even on high draft picks like Harrington. Why even Pistons GM Joe Dumars made mistakes in drafting Mateen Cleaves and Darko Milicic, but Dumars moved quickly to turn the page and get something in exchange for those mistakes.
Detroit is unlikely to get much, if anything at all, in exchange for Harrington is what would have to be a sign-and-trade transaction.
The move, for Harrington, is liberation from the pressure of a franchise looking for a savior. For Detroit Lions fans, it brings hope that they finally found the young franchise quarterback that they can rally around in McCown. For Millen, he can admit the mistake and move forward. For everyone concerned, a cloud has now been lifted from this franchise and even if there aren't immediately results, at least they're trying something different.
For a franchise that hasn't seen .500 in half a decade, trying something different seems like a good thing.