Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Joey's end?

That didn't take long, did it? Less than 24 hours after the Detroit Lions signed Jon Kitna to a four-year contract, their incumbent quarterback might want to start packing for another city.

On MLive.com this morning, Lions beat reporter Tom Kowalski wrote that Joey Harrington is unhappy with the developing situation in Detroit, and if he has to start all over again - which is apparently what Mike Martz has asked him to do - then he might prefer to do it someplace else.

There were rumors over the weekend that Martz and Harrington didn't hit it off very well in the new offensive coordinator's "quarterback school." (And maybe that's why Kitna received a four-year contract.) According to Kowalski, Martz essentially told Harrington that the last four years of his career in the West Coast offense were meaningless. The coach wants his quarterback to forget everything he's been taught and re-learn how to play the position.

Does that sound like a surprise to anyone? Hasn't it been clear that Harrington was coached terribly under Steve Mariucci (and Marty Mornhinweg)? Wouldn't we expect Martz - the offensive guru who created "The Greatest Show on Turf" - to break Harrington of his bad habits and de-condition him from what he was previously taught?

Sure, Harrington might initially find himself in a padded room, curled up into a ball, biting down on a wood splint, as he detoxed and sweated out the poison Mariucci fed him. And outside the door, looking through a small glass window, Mike Martz would be scribbling notes on a clipboard, peering down at his data through his professor's glasses.

"Aren't you being a little rough on him?" Matt Millen might ask, while trying to peek over Martz's shoulder. "I picked him #3 in the draft."

"No," Marinelli would respond. "He needs this. Have you seen the kid's tape? He needs to be broken down."

"Guys, you have to trust me," Martz would say, as he tapped his lips with his index finger. "This is why you brought me here. He can be a good quarterback. But we have to rebuild him."

From there, we might see Harrington strapped down to a gurney with wires taped to his chest, arms, and forehead, needles and meters moving frantically, while he watched tapes of Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger playing quarterback. Martz would sit in another room, behind a pane of plexiglass, taking down more notes, devising more ideas. In the more difficult moments, maybe Martz would sit by Harrington's bedside, holding his hand when the re-conditioning was at its most painful.

Soon, we'd see a Rocky-esque montage of Harrington, still with wires taped to him, pushing a treadmill to its upper limits. Throwing footballs through tires. Deftly dodging oncoming giant boulders and fiery javelins meant to resemble ferocious pass-rushers. And then hitting targets attached to golf carts moving down and across the Lions' practice field.

As blue chalk marks hit the various bullseyes, Martz would nod with approval. Marinelli's jaw would set with definitive belief. And Millen would be smiling and pumping his fist. Jon Kitna would high-five him, saying "Way to go, Stallion!" And up on a catwalk, high above the field, even Dre' Bly could be looking on with admiration.

Unfortunately, it sounds like Joey doesn't want any part of that. (Did I get a little carried away? I probably got a bit carried away.) Even if it would almost surely benefit his career, Harrington isn't sure he wants to endure that kind of reconstruction here in Detroit. He doesn't want to start all over. He doesn't think his last four years have been a waste. He wants to build upon what he's already learned. Maybe he just thinks that he's already been through too much in this town and if he has to be completely broken down, it's better to do it someplace else, where fans and teammates haven't already campaigned against him.

Personally, I hope that's not the truth. I hope Harrington's eventually willing to put himself through Martz's quarterback boot camp, with the realization that he could finally become the quarterback some of us (the less-than-vocal minority?) think he's capable of being. As Kowalski said in his column (which I should point out is an opinion piece), it's understandable that Joey might look at this, feel somewhat insulted and beaten down, and wonder whether it's worth the effort. Don't his four years count for something? Of course, the answer is no. And Harrington has to get over that. Martz is in his corner. He thinks Joey can succeed in his system.

If Joey thinks he'll go to another team whose coaches are happy with what he's already learned and want to go from there, he's likely very much mistaken. They'll want to break him down, too. Maybe not to the extent that Martz does. But he'll have plenty of re-learning to do. Detroit is still the best situation for him. (Jeffri Chadiha said this a month ago in Sports Illustrated.) Maybe he feels it's too far gone, with fans and teammates railing against him, and doesn't want to deal with that anymore. But whether he deserves it or not, the man who drafted him still believes in him and has done virtually everything to help him succeed. Is he going to find that anywhere else?

And if Joey thought the fans were on his case before, wait until they hear that he'd rather be someplace else. I don't know how it is in other cities, but in Detroit, if someone doesn't want to be here, the "Get the #@$% Outta Town" mob will not hesitate to shove him on a bus.

The Lions and Harrington have until June 15 (when Joey's due a $4 million roster bonus) to figure out whether this is going to work. At this rate, however, it probably won't take that long to make a decision. For Joey's sake, I hope he sees what the right one is.

▪▪ For a look at this from another (less pro-Joey) angle, check out what Kevin Antcliff has to say.


  • At March 15, 2006 11:41 AM, Anonymous kevin said…

    I don't know if Mickey could do anything for Joey. Like I said, I respect the guy for all he's been through, and part of me hopes he hangs around and has a break out year. But I have to be realistic. I think Joey can succeed if he moves somewhere else, and I think the Lions will have that load off of their shoulders, as well.

  • At March 15, 2006 12:49 PM, Blogger the sports dude said…

    The best thing not only for him, but for all of us, is to move on. I don't think anyone in that locker room would ever believe in him, even if he started putting up consistent numbers and led them to the playoffs! Plus, I don't think he will ever be better than a #2 in the league anyhow! Cut him loose, let him go, just don't draft Vince Young or Matt Leinart please!

  • At March 15, 2006 2:52 PM, Blogger Greg Eno said…

    I still maintain Harrington was placed in a bad situation from the get-go here, and a clean slate is what he needs, and what he should want. I think it can happen in Detroit; I'm willing to let bygones be bygones and give Martz a crack at him.

  • At March 15, 2006 3:48 PM, Blogger Zach Landres-Schnur said…

    harrington is as done as done gets. kitna will be throwing for the lions in no time at all.

  • At March 15, 2006 4:17 PM, Blogger Tim Moore said…

    Just to think... Harrington was supposed to be good.

  • At March 15, 2006 9:59 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    At this point, I really don't give a crap. I trust Mike Martz's judgement in talent and trust his ability to develop said talent.

    If he thinks Joey is the guy and can be the guy, so be it.

    If he thinks Jon Kitna can be the guy, so be it.

    I *want* Joey to do well, not just because I want the Lions to do well, but because he's the kind of athlete we should have more of -- intelligent guys who play sports to be sportsmen. And he's the kind of guy you want your town to have.

    I don't want my QB to be some overly religious bumpkin (*cough, cough* Kitna) or some punk (*cough, cough* Marcus Vick).

    If Joey feels like he needs to leave, or if Martz approached this wrong with Joey from a mental standpoint, so be it. He goes.

    Ultimately, I think that'll prove to be bad for the Lions. Anyone who thinks Kitna has more talent than Harrington is kidding themselves. He's always been a middle-of-the-roader... but with far better coaching. Maybe Martz sees something he can mold, and hey, great. But if Martz can get through to Joey on a level where they're both on the same page, I can't possibly see how that doesn't work out better for Detroit. The guy's got a canon for an arm, is tough, is smart, is not at all injury prone, and loves to play football. Hello!?!?

  • At March 16, 2006 1:04 PM, Blogger Sam said…






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