Lions Handled Harrington Situation Poorly

Instead of dousing the media flame, Detroit poured gasoline by staying mum.

ALLEN PARK -- One of the oddities of the Lions/Joey Harrington saga is that the team never offered an explanation as to what was happening during a week of speculation, innuendo and unsubstantiated reports.

Despite daily media requests for a meeting with president Matt Millen or coach Rod Marinelli, the Lions apparently were willing to let unnamed sources do their talking in the media.

Instead of clearing the air - either on or off the record - the Lions kept their silence amid reports that Harrington and offensive coordinator Mike Martz had clashed during a week of quarterback school; that Harrington had "sabotaged" the quarterback school with a poor attitude and that Marinelli and Martz simply didn't like the prospect of playing Harrington.

It became obvious when the team gave Jon Kitna a $3.5 million signing bonus that he was not being brought in as just a backup to Harrington. And by the time Josh McCown was signed, it was clear - again from unnamed sources - that Harrington was on his way out.

The only comment has been issued by Marinelli during the first voluntary workout, a brief, ambiguous, "At this moment, he's not with us. That's been my decision. We're moving in a new direction."

Behind the scenes, Harrington, who expressed reservations at the end of the 2005 season regarding his future in Detroit, had decided it was time to move on. Lions president Matt Millen, a longtime Harrington supporter, agreed to trade or release him.

During the four seasons since the Lions took him with the No. 3 pick in the first round of the 2002 draft, Harrington never reached the level of play the Lions expected of him. But he was hardly to blame for the Lions' recent failures.

He was a bad fit for the West Coast offense coached by Marty Mornhinweg and later Steve Mariucci; he was never given the full support of either coach; his supporting cast was subpar; and eventually his teammates turned against him with the apparent approval of Mariucci.

After four years as the whipping boy, Harrington apparently decided he had had enough.

The Lions did not immediately indicate how they will handle the Harrington situation but it appears they will make a move to free him from the final two years of his original contract by the start of the April 29 draft or by June 15, the day he is due a $4 million roster bonus.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and Washington Redskins are among teams interested.


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