Detroit News wrote:
Harrington is out of free passes
Harrington must take accountability for his slump, prove he can be consistent.
By Bob Wojnowski
ALLEN PARK -- We've spread the blame often enough and wide enough. Now it's time to pin it right where it belongs, right where it hurts.
It's on Joey Harrington now, and he knows it. Steve Mariucci stopped short of saying it, suggesting the Lions' offensive troubles are deeper, and they are. But Harrington's abysmal play the past two games has startled everyone, including Mariucci, including Harrington, and a shake-up might not be far off.
Harrington is scheduled to start Sunday in Minnesota, where the 4-5 Lions will try to end a three-game losing streak. Beyond that? Nothing is guaranteed anymore for Harrington, the third pick of the 2002 draft, and it shouldn't be.
Look. We've defended Harrington, and we're not ready to bury him. Neither are the Lions. He was playing well when they were 4-2. But every encouraging progression precedes a regression, and for the first time in Harrington's two-plus seasons, it's fair to wonder if he'll make it here.
Backup Mike McMahon, who has given no indication he's the long-term answer, will get more snaps in practice this week, a well-aimed warning shot from Mariucci.
"Hey, maybe it'll light a fire under me," Harrington said after practice Monday.
"Maybe it'll kick me out of this slump. That's fine. It's not like the quarterback position is locked in stone. You've got to go out and earn it, and I plan on going out and earning it."
Harrington said the right things, after two straight games of doing mostly the wrong things. In losses to Washington and Jacksonville, he was a combined 37-for-85, and the offense looked horrible. He played superbly in a 28-13 victory over the Giants, and played well in other games. But against Philadelphia and Green Bay, the Lions couldn't move the ball.
Harrington still talks with confidence, but it sounds forced, sort of the way he plays. This has the scent of a crisis, no matter how much Mariucci tries to soften it. Everyone has been patient with Harrington, and he will get a chance to ride this out. But he doesn't get unlimited chances to prove himself.
What's troubling is, the same questions keep surfacing about his inaccuracy, about his inability to make big plays. There are mitigating circumstances, absolutely. Mariucci has done a poor job with the running game. Receivers have been injured. The offensive line has been shaky.
But your quarterback can help you overcome those problems, instead of highlighting them. Even Jacksonville's young David Garrard was able to do that.
Asked if he needs to make a change to jump-start the league's 31st-ranked offense, Mariucci danced well.
"We expect a certain level of competence and performance at any position," he said. "It's evaluated, and we're doing that. We've seen Joey play better. We've seen our team play better."
So is Harrington the starter this week?
"Well, we're headed that way right now," Mariucci said. "We haven't decided to do otherwise. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to make sure Mike (McMahon) continues to practice and improve and gets ready."
Here it comes, all over again. Fair or not, the quarterback always gets splattered with the most blame. In Detroit, the bashings have become a sport, made uglier by the Lions' incredible inability to find a quarterback worth keeping.
Speaking of ugly, consider this: If Harrington plays poorly against the Vikings, can you imagine the boos on Thanksgiving Day, when Indianapolis visits?
Harrington hasn't won the fans over. I doubt he has won his teammates over. And don't kid yourself -- he hasn't won Mariucci or Matt Millen over.
If that makes Sunday's game the biggest of Harrington's young career, so be it. I contend the criticism has come too quickly at times, overshadowing the Lions' other deficiencies. There's still ample evidence that Harrington can be a decent NFL quarterback. But if the Lions crave better than decent -- and they should -- they'll have to see more before deciding whether to give him the job next season.
"The last two games have been a struggle; I've missed some balls I shouldn't have," Harrington said. "Everybody hits a little slump. It's about how you respond to it. That Giants game was about as perfect as you can play. So I'm not going to tank it just because I've had a couple of off performances. If you sit and worry about it, that maybe somebody can come and replace me, then you're done."
Harrington talked politely, without the defiance he occasionally flashes. My guess is he feels the pressure, and is shaken by it, but doesn't want to make it apparent.
Something isn't clicking, and you wonder if Mariucci's beloved (and tedious) West Coast offense doesn't suit him. It's almost as if Harrington is paralyzed by it, unsure where to throw, or where his receivers will be, or if he should take chances.
That's also Mariucci's fault. But the fact is, the coach didn't draft Harrington. He inherited him. He needs to see if Harrington can handle this, and if he can't, Mariucci will go get another quarterback, possibly after this season.
That's the reality of the business. If it hasn't dawned on Harrington yet, it should now.
"A piece of me is a little bit (angry), but that's not my overwhelming feeling," he said. "My feeling is frustration. Any athlete looks at himself when he goes through this kind of deal and says, 'How could I play so well for the first six or seven games, then have a switch kick in and start missing stuff?' I feel very strongly that I'll kick right back."
It would be nice to see. We're just not sure how many more chances Harrington will get to show it, or how many more he deserves.