Barring an injury or other unforeseen developments, veteran Jon Kitna is the Lions quarterback not only for the remaining four games of the 2006 season but for next year also.
Coach Rod Marinelli made his intentions clear Monday in response to ongoing questions regarding the status of the Lions quarterback position, notably after Kitna's three interceptions and one lost fumble in the 28-21 loss Sunday at New England.
"I see Jon as our starter for next year," Marinelli said. "He brings so many things, he's a heck of a quarterback. It wasn't his best game (Sunday), but it's an entire unit, the way I look at it.
"I think he's got so much upside to him. We put a tremendous amount of pressure on him, and the more you do throw, breakdowns can happen, interceptions can happen. He's also done a lot of very, very good things in terms of moving the ball, throwing the ball, spreading it around the field."
Kitna has been Marinelli's choice as the Lions' quarterback almost since he arrived last spring and the decision was made to trade Joey Harrington.
Although there was a brief discussion of competition between Kitna, Josh McCown and Dan Orlovsky, Kitna moved into the No. 1 job during offseason workouts and has taken every snap in every regular-season game.
On the plus side, Kitna's leadership has gone far in unifying the Lions locker room, which had been splintered during recent seasons of struggles under Harrington, Mike McMahon and Jeff Garcia.
To his credit, Kitna has moved the team well at times, but opposing defenses seem to have caught up with him in the Mike Martz-style offense in recent weeks. He has thrown at least one interception in each of the past 10 games, and his offensive line has given up 13 sacks in the past two games. Yet Kitna has never pointed a finger at anyone but himself for the interceptions and mistakes.
Kitna was not surprised that Marinelli had expressed confidence in him as the long-term quarterback, and he obviously likes the idea.
"I think that's been his stance all along on how to build a team and the continuity you need at that position," Kitna said. "Your quarterback is going to have times -- every quarterback is going to have times -- when he does something that really is damaging to the football team.
"(Sunday), I felt like for the first time I just let the whole team down. Coach Marinelli doesn't look at just one play, he looks at the whole picture."