Now or never Lions have?helped Harrington -- now he must respond
All the questions about Detroit's decision to take USC wide receiver Mike Williams in the first round of Saturday's NFL Draft don't really change my opinion of the selection. It was a great pick. The guy will be a future star. It doesn't matter that the Lions already have two other first-round picks at receiver in Charles Rogers and Roy Williams. If anything, all the focus on this issue is overshadowing something larger and more obvious: There won't be another quarterback in the NFL on a hotter seat this season than Detroit's Joey Harrington.
There's too much talent around him. There are too many reasons for him to succeed. In short, there are no more excuses to explain his struggles. I admit to being one of Harrington's defenders, because, like a lot of young quarterbacks, he deserves time to grow up. I've wanted to know what he could do with a supporting cast of playmakers around him. Now, in year four of his tenure with the Lions, we're about to find out. The critics who bash Harrington the most tend to overlook the problems Detroit has had with its passing game since his arrival. He didn't have any receivers as a rookie, unless you want to mistakenly classify Az-Zahir Hakim and Bill Schroeder as reliable targets. Injuries have limited Rogers, the second pick in the '03 draft, to only six games over his first two seasons (which is another reason to have Mike Williams in the fold). And Roy Williams limped through most of his rookie season after exciting fans with his potential. Regardless of Harrington's deficiencies, this isn't the way to find out what kind of quarterback the Lions have.
If Rogers and Roy Williams stay healthy and Mike Williams can avoid the struggles that typically plague rookie receivers, the Lions' fortunes will change instantly. Of the top six receivers to come out of the last three drafts, they boast half on their roster. When you add second-year running back Kevin Jones, who ran for 1,133 yards as a rookie, Detroit has the most impressive collection of young skill players in the league. Now all they need is for Harrington to do what good quarterbacks are supposed to do -- get them to follow him.
These are where the questions will arise in Detroit. Has Harrington done enough to convince his teammates that he's the man to keep guiding them? If he hasn't, he had better start making up ground fast. If Harrington can't get it done early with this much skill around him, I wouldn't be surprised to see Lions head coach Steve Mariucci quickly turn to back-up Jeff Garcia. No matter what the Lions say, they didn't bring in Garcia to mentor. He's insurance, plain and simple.
That's a good thing, by the way. Maybe Harrington got complacent because he knew his former backup, Mike McMahon, couldn't beat him out of his job. If that was the case, then there's nothing wrong with the Lions motivating Harrington with a little competition. It worked for Drew Brees in San Diego. Like Harrington, he finished his third season with few people impressed by his play. By the end of last year, Brees was a Pro Bowler. Why? Because Brees decided he wasn't going to let rookie Phillip Rivers take his job.
I'm not saying Harrington will be playing in Hawaii next February but it is plausible for him to improve dramatically. The common wisdom in the NFL is that most quarterbacks don't really develop until they've played four seasons, unless they have names like Vick or Manning. By that point, the successful ones stop trying to prove why they were high picks and just start playing. That's exactly what Harrington needs to do. The Lions simply can't afford to let another year go by without pushing for a playoff spot. That's what the Mike Williams pick was really about. Though Detroit could've taken Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson with the 10th selection, they couldn't pass on a receiver who could bolster their offense. Let's face it: If Detroit is going to compete for a playoff spot this season, it's going to be because they scored a lot of points. They have an offensive-minded head coach. They've used their last six first-round picks on offensive players. They're going to ride their offense as far as it will take them. Harrington knows this as well as anybody.
He can utilize the guidance of Mariucci, who molded Brett Favre and helped turn Garcia into a Pro Bowl quarterback in San Francisco. He can stay motivated by the notion that Garcia won't be holding a clipboard long if the offense doesn't improve. And he can pray that Williams, Williams and Rogers make it through a full season together while the offensive line keeps opening holes for Jones.
Harrington needs to do all that and more because nobody will defend him if he falters this year. And if he can't win with the people around him, we won't be hearing any questions about the Lions' draft strategy next April. We'll know exactly what they should be searching for -- another quarterback.
Joined: September 9th, 2004, 12:13 pm Posts: 717 Location: Woodbridge, Virginia
Only person who can stop Joey is ......Joey
April 27th, 2005, 12:47 pm
Bubbles the Lion
Joined: April 14th, 2005, 1:09 pm Posts: 56 Location: Fowlerville, MI
oh great attack of SI again. Well if anything maybe joey would get injured(not wishing it) and then we still won't have to worry since garcia would come in. Joey has been cursed since the week he was drafted and SI posted his pic on the cover
_________________ Predict 10-6. It's a good bet
"If it weren't for the bullet, no one would fear the gun"