McMahon facing unwinnable battle with Harrington

After playing his rookie season like a riverboat gambler with one chip left, the Lions felt so confident in quarerback Mike McMahon they dispatched former starter Charlie Batch. Now all the chips were on the table and it was McMahon's big score, the starter's position. It was McMahon's time to cash in or was it?

(ALLEN PARK, MI) In 2002, Lions' starting quarterback Mike McMahon was supposed to build on all those attributes that the Lions regime saw in 2001. With a year's worth of experience under his belt, McMahon should have been the unquestioned starter this season.

The second-year pro should be the high roller in the Lions building. He should be getting all the snaps in practice and solidifying his position in this high stakes game known as the Lions' starting quarterback.

Instead, McMahon couldn't be playing his cards closer to the vest. The second year man is holding on to the ball as if he's afraid to make a mistake. He's running the ball when he should be throwing it. He's throwing it away instead of trying to make a play. When it was time to cash in, McMahon rolled snake-eyes.

What happened to the riverboat gambler?

Joey Harrington happened to him.

All things changed for McMahon when the Lions made their first round pick in the 2002 NFL college draft. McMahon was looking at getting a significant signing bonus and a big contract from the Lions; the same way that former starter Charlie Batch got a $13 million dollar bonus in his contract.

McMahon was looking at being the unquestioned starter of an NFL franchise in just his second year in the pros.

But funny things happen to a gambler. Just as quickly as you rollsevens-and-elevens, you can roll snake-eyes.

Mike McMahon found that out the hard way.

Instead of welcoming Quentin Jammer (the consensus odds-on pick to be the Lions first round selection), a cornerback from Texas who would give some welcomed help on the other side of the ball, McMahon must have looked on in disbelief as the Lions instead selected Oregon superstar Joey Harrington and then signed HIM to a contract with a $13 million dollar bonus.

Craps! Snake eyes!

There goes the signing bonus.

There goes the big contract.

There goes the starting position.

The big player is now on the other side of the table.

"Last year, I was just trying to make the team," admitted McMahon. "This year, I've got the starting job and I'm trying to hold on to it and get some wins."

Does he feel the pressure of Joey Harrington breathing down his neck? McMahon says no, "No. You just go and do the things you need to do. If you do the right things on the field [by] working hard on the field and good things will happen."

Of course, it's a cliche'. Just like the others you've heard, "you win a few, you lose a few" or that time tested one, "the cards just weren't in my favor this time."

You use them to soothe the pain of rolling 'snake-eyes.'

Now there's a new riverboat gambler.

"I feel good, I really do," said Lions first-round pick, Joey Harrington. "I'm feeling a lot more comfortable now than in the first two mini camps. The minor stuff is in, you know, the little basic plays. The big complicated stuff starts coming in now. I'm sure I'll get a little more confused and I'll need to do a little more studying, but right now, I feel good."

McMahon is no dummy, he realizes that the Lions didn't bring Harrington into town to ride the bench. He knows sooner or later that Harrington is going to get a shot.

He also knows, the day Harrington gets the job, he's not going to give it back.


There's one thing every riverboat gambler knows. There's always another table to roll on.

If McMahon can produce enough in the way of points and wins in what will likely be his last year in Detroit, there's a chance some chips will fall his way again. Then some other NFL team will come calling. Maybe, just maybe, the cards will be in his favor this time.

Maybe, next time he'll roll seven.

McMahon found out something that Chuck Long, Andre Ware, Rodney Peete, Erik Kramer, Bob Gagliano, Scott Mitchell and Charlie Batch already knew.

There's something funny about the job of being the starting quarterback in Detroit. One minute you're rolling seven-and-eleven the next minute ....snake eyes.


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