Escape from Detroit: Harrington's Options

The truth, the lies, and the trade rumors regarding Detroit's much maligned quarterback, former No. 3 overall pick Joey Harrington. Also: Who is interested, could he haunt the franchise with another NFC North team, and more.

ALLEN PARK - It genuinely takes an uncommon, uncomprehensible event to register as 'turbulent' on the Detroit Lions Richter scale.

Forty years of failure, multiple head coaching changes (this century alone) and a complete lack of franchise progress since the completion of the Mackinac Bridge typically set prequisites of 'God awful', 'disastrous', and a player so anxious to depart he's willing to leave millions of guaranteed cash on the table.

The Joey Harrington situation in Detroit qualifies.

To clarify the rampant (and mostly false) speculation that has clouded the issue, the split was not necessarily acrimonious, it was not necessarily warm, either, but one thing that it wasn't was a franchise decision. It was Joey Harrington's decision. And no, Harrington did not put a tack on offensive coordinator Mike Martz's chair during quarterback school. He did not spit in Martz's coffee. He didn't show up intoxicated, or shoot rubber bands at the back of Dan Orlovsky's head.

Fueled by a half decade in quarterback hell, Harrington had simply already made up his mind, and knew that Martz's material was not going to be relevant to him. And Martz knew it too, along with vice president Matt Millen and head coach Rod Marinelli. Harrington naturally took it with a grain of salt, and his disinterest only cemented his stance on his future in Detroit.

Contrary to published reports, there was never a 'sabotage.' Not only does that conflict with Harrington's personality, but it also fails to make any sense.

(In fact, I was told by a source close to the situation that Harrington had decided to leave Detroit immediately after the 2005 season; partly due to the comments from cornerback Dre Bly, but also a lack of fan support and unruly media. Although Martz and Marinelli's support tossed Harrington the proverbial 'curve ball' -- he even briefly entertained the idea -- it was clear the previous four years worth of damage were irreparable).

The Lions, meanwhile, wanted Harrington back as the quarterback, hence both public and private support of the former No. 3 overall pick. But there is not an interest in retaining a player (or pulling out the stops to keep one) that doesn't want to remain on the team. Thus, the trade rumors.

Several teams have demonstrated an interest in Harrington, with each holding an enticing value to both Detroit and their estranged quarterback. Although #3 is on the Lions active roster, he will no longer be by sometime this week.

A trade is the most likely scenario, but the ball remains in Harrington's court with the leverage of negotiating with inquiring teams. The Lions, meanwhile, want some sort of compensation for who they once considered their savior. If nothing can be worked out, Detroit will release Harrington before June 15.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: The Chiefs have held an interest in Harrington since the 2002 draft, when they attempted to jump from the No. 8 pick and swap with Detroit's No. 3 pick. Lions' GM Matt Millen, obviously, held firm despite the attempts from Chiefs' GM and friend, Carl Peterson. That interest hasn't waned. In fact, a common perception around the league is that Harrington didn't fail in Detroit, but that Detroit failed him.

The Chiefs will return starter Trent Green, but the injury-riddled Pro Bowler is nearing the end of his career. Neither of the team's reserve quarterbacks, Casey Printers (CFL) or Damon Huard, are even a lock to crack the roster.

The two teams have spoken, and Kansas City is considered a perfect fit for Harrington. Given Millen's history with Peterson, and Harrington's apparent interest in K.C., this is the most likely scenario, with the Lions receiving either a sixth or seventh round pick in exchange.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS: The Vikings wouldn't make the ideal partner for Detroit, but the offer might be worth considering.

According to reports, the Vikings are willing to part with a third round pick for Harrington, making him a backup to veteran Brad Johnson.

New Vikings coach Brad Childress has a wealth of experience working with young quarterbacks, including Philly's Donovan McNabb, and Minnesota is well-aware of both Harrington's potential and his faults -- making the apparent exchange of a third round pick worth noting.

Still, trading Harrington to an NFC North team would violate the cardinal sin in league trading circles: Never work with a division contender. Would it be worth the risk to deal Harrington, who could haunt the franchise for the next 10 years, or is Detroit confident that they are simply ridding of 'dead-weight' for a killer value?

WASHINGTON REDSKINS: The moment Patrick Ramsey landed in New York as Jet, the Redskins have entertained the idea of bringing in Harrington to work beneath veteran starter Mark Brunell.

Of course, former Chiefs' offensive coordinator Al Saunders is behind the iniative.

Saunders, now the Redskins' quarterbacks coach, has always valued Harrington, never believing Detroit used him to his potential.

The Redskins brought in Todd Collins, Saunders' pupil in Kansas City, but the team wouldn't mind spirited competition for the backup spot. But the inability to guarantee Harrington at least the 'primary' clip-holder position could nix any reciprocal interest.

CINCINNATI BENGALS: After losing Jon Kitna to Detroit, a quasi-swap might be in the making with the Bengals.

With the uncertain health of franchise quarterback Carson Palmer (knee) less than settling, and the absence of a capable reserve, Cincinnati is eyeing former Tampa starter Brian Griese, veteran Jamie Martin and Harrington.

Ego might affect whether or not Harrington would agree to Cincinnati. Although the Bengals are loaded offensively, and Harrington and Palmer are friends who share the same agent (David Dunn), the idea of playing understudy to a player drafted one year (and two picks) ahead of you isn't appetizing.

Other options: The Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders all have backup positions to be settled, with Oakland having a starting opportunity available.

Seattle isn't likely, given Mike Holmgren's west coast offense and Harrington's failure to adapt in the last four years. Still, Holmgren does think outside the 'Mariucci' box, allowing his quarterback to throw downfield. Starter Matt Hassebeck and the defending NFC North champs, meanwhile, are also without a second in command.

Dallas is searching for a reserve with NFL Europe's Drew Henson and three-year player Tony Romo battling to be Drew Bledsoe's reliever. Head coach Bill Parcells seems content with the position, though.

Although Raider Nation might bring even more pressure than what Harrington endured in Detroit, there lies an opportunity to start, which Harrington craves the most.

Regardless of where Joey Harrington ends up, it seems the two sides are dealing amicably. Both are aware that a mutual clearing exists regardless of where Harrington will land. And that decision, ultimately, will be his.


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