Lions hand QB reins over to rookie Harrington

Look at it this way: Mike McMahon lasted twice as long as the Lions starting quarterback this year than Charlie Batch lasted a year ago.

Two games into the season -- and after being outscored 80-28 by Miami and Carolina -- McMahon has lost the quarterback job to rookie Joey Harrington, the Lions first-round pick in the draft five months ago.

Batch lasted just one game a year ago before coach Marty Mornhinweg benched him in favor of Ty Detmer, who had been with the team for barely a week at the time Mornhinweg made his decision.

Batch eventually got the job back when Detmer struggled, but it appears that nothing less than a debilitating injury will get Harrington out of the Lions' quarterback job now.

"We're going to ride the highs and lows with Joey," Mornhinweg said Wednesday. "We're moving on in that direction."

McMahon's big mistake -- as Mornhinweg put it -- is that he didn't light it up in the first two games of the season. He put up adequate numbers in the season opener at Miami but floundered in the second loss at Carolina.

McMahon did not give the Lions the offensive spark they needed and, just as significantly, the team did nothing -- offensively or defensively -- to help him.

In the two games, McMahon completed 22 of 48 pass attempts for 274 yards and a touchdown, was intercepted twice and had a passer rating of 53.7.

Harrington, the third player taken in the NFL draft in April, played briefly in both games and wasn't exactly inspiring himself, completing seven of 18 passes for 52 yards with one interception and a passer rating of 23.8.

The difference is that Harrington seems to have the innate skills that could make him into an NFL elite quarterback -- good feet, a quick release, an accurate arm and the ability to find his receivers quickly.

By his own admission, Mornhinweg said he hoped to give Harrington more time to develop before throwing him into active duty, but it didn't turn out that way.

"I did not plan it quite this early," Mornhinweg said. "To be quite honest with you, I was hoping to get at least to the bye week, sit back, be able to evaluate Mike, be able to evaluate Joey's progression."

With the Lions floundering badly and public pressure mounting on Lions president Matt Millen and Mornhinweg -- who are 2-16 since taking over the team in January 2001 -- McMahon's trial run as the starting quarterback lasted only half as long as Mornhinweg had hoped.

The Lions have two more games -- at home against Green Bay and New Orleans -- before the bye week, and the team has taken on the appearance of one of the NFL's worst of the season.

Mornhinweg made it plain that he is not looking at Harrington as the savior.

"He has progressed just about as well as you can progress," Mornhinweg said. "We have to understand that we cannot expect miraculous play and heroics right off the bat from Joey.

"It's a situation where we certainly have to play better defense, especially pass defense. Our special teams have to be solid. We do have to run the football."


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