Go ahead. Call Joey Harrington a bust. You know you want to. It's that premature childhood reflex whenever you are faced with disappointment. Or if the No. 3 overall pick in the draft doesn't workout for your team.
So call him a bust. Shout it if you want.
But you're wrong. Dead wrong. Harrington just didn't workout in Detroit.
If Joey Harrington was a bust, he wouldn't be planning a national tour that kicks off Tuesday, and includes visits to Miami, Tennessee, Washington and West Coast potentials San Diego and Oakland (among a handful of others). The last two just down the coastline from his native Oregon.
He is Spinal Tap in its prime. If there was a National Football League waiting line, Harrington would be handing out dixie cups with a blue pill and a red pill. And they all seem to be choosing the latter.
Ironically, the Detroit Lions aren't invited down the rabbit hole.
Because if Joey Harrington was a bust, the Lions wouldn't have had to pull out stops in a failed attempt to retain him, which included a public endorsement of the former franchise savior. Don't be fooled by the comparisons to the Marty Mornhinweg affair, which question Lions' GM Matt Millen's credibility on the Harrington plug. Sure, the Lions have credibility issues, but Millen's defense of Mornhinweg just prior to the firing of Steve Mariucci in San Francisco was more bad timing (for Marty) and less Roman conspiracy.
The fact is, Lions' offensive coordinator Mike Martz was convinced that Harrington had the talent to not only succeed as Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger did within his offensive scheme, but exceed that success. And Martz isn't the only personnel man in the league that can spot a quarterback that can make every throw, and still has the youth (he turned 27 in October) to become a franchise quarterback.
If Harrington was a bust, he would be golfing with Tim Couch, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Andre Ware and D.B. Sweeney. Instead, at least nine teams have inquired about Harrington's services. And they haven't been deterred by a reported demand that Harrington's agent, David Dunn, is setting the market value at $9 million -- the guaranteed amount Harrington would be paid as the starting quarterback for the Lions this season.
$9 million. Guaranteed. And he didn't even have a part in The Cutting Edge or Hard Ball.
But what Harrington won't be guaranteed is a starting position anywhere in the league. And no one is going to pay a player $9 million to hold a clipboard, regardless of how good they might be at it (see: The Detmer family). So what does this does mean? It means that at least nine teams believe Joey Harrington is good enough to push their starting quarterback, or replace him.
Good enough to push former All Pro Mark Brunell. Good enough to push Daunte Culpepper. Good enough to push Philip Rivers. Good enough to push Aaron Brooks. At the very least, they all seem to think he makes a helluva safety valve.
Harrington's newfound luxury isn't one that is afforded to what typically accompanies a prototypical NFL 'bust.' Those players draw very little interest (Couch couldn't escape Green Bay's preseason, Leaf's job in Dallas redefined 'temporary' and even the CFL didn't want Ware) once their original team has realized its poor investment.
That is the reason the Lions spurned the Minnesota Vikings, who had reportedly offered a third round pick for Harrington. The Lions would rather not face Harrington twice a year for the next 10 years. But if Harrington forces his release, rather than a trade (which remains a possibility), that choice will be his.
During the NFL owner's meetings this week, Millen will entertain trade offers, and a bidding war could ensue. Kansas City has even been rumored to be willing to part with a third round pick. This is all for the quarterback that was roundly criticized by fans and teammates and, behind closed doors, his coaches. The quarterback that no one wanted until everyone -- even the Lions brass -- wanted him back.
A status that, at the present time, Harrington is currently enjoying.