The goal is not to settle on a quarterback for next season. Or to build Joey Harrington's confidence. Or to get another long look at Mike McMahon before he becomes a free agent.
At least, those are not coach Steve Mariucci's goals going into the Lions' last five games of the season.
"First and foremost, we're trying to win games right now," Mariucci said Friday. "Who gives us the best chance to win a game right now? So the last five games are the most important thing -- this Arizona game and the last five, obviously.
"We will have to determine what we're going to do for next year and going forward. Of course, we have to determine that. You've got one guy that's a free agent, you've got one guy that's been here for three years.
"That evaluation is taking place. Our aim is to develop these guys and improve these guys."
That might mean more relief appearances for McMahon or it might mean Harrington goes the distance, but for now -- to maintain a semblance of stability and order with an offense that has struggled for the past month -- Mariucci said he will stick with Harrington as the Lions' starting quarterback.
Mariucci opened the speculation season Thursday when he brought McMahon off the bench to play the final 17 minutes of the Lions' 41-9 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
He made the move, Mariucci said, not because Harrington was playing terribly but because the game had gotten away from the Lions and it was a good time to let McMahon get some work.
Harrington will be the quarterback Dec. 5 when the 4-7 Lions line up against the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field.
"Would we like him to be better?" Mariucci asked. "Of course, of course." And he shrugged off suggestions that the other players might be losing confidence in Harrington.
"The team's going to rally behind whoever's playing quarterback," Mariucci said. "It just will.
"I think playing Mike for however many snaps he got -- a bunch of throws and 20-some snaps -- was really good for him and really good for us.
"He's been practicing more. If he needs to be called upon again -- and I'm not ruling that out -- then he's more ready. So we'll just play it one game at a time here. We're not naming Joey the starter for the next 12 years. He's the quarterback now and if we choose to go to our backup and play, then we'll do that. It's not out of the question."
McMahon, a crowd favorite -- as most backup quarterbacks are in the NFL -- completed 11 of 15 passes for 77 yards, scrambled twice for 18 yards and put a spark of excitement back into the anti-Harrington crowd at Ford Field.
Although it was statistically one of McMahon's best games in four NFL seasons -- a completion mark of 73 percent -- he was no more successful getting the Lions into the end zone than Harrington had been. Harrington completed 14 of 23 passes for 156 yards in the first 43 minutes of the game.
"Joey didn't play poorly," Mariucci said. "That was not your typical hook with a guy that's playing bad. He was playing OK. There were some throws that would have been nice for him to make, where he would have had a pretty darned good performance."
In particular, Mariucci was thinking of two passes midway in the first quarter on the Lions' first possession. On the first -- a second-and-goal at the Colts' 2 -- Harrington overthrew wide-open tight end Stephen Alexander in the corner of the end zone.
On the next play, he threw the ball slightly behind wide receiver Roy Williams to avoid a defensive player closing in ahead of Williams, and Williams was unable to hold onto the ball on his back shoulder.
"If you look at the film and the breakdowns, a sack here and a penalty there, there's reasons other than the quarterback that drives are not ending up in the end zone," Mariucci said.
It has become unreal that with such a good start, that we could loose 5 straight and go from a 4-2 of the division to tied for last in the division. Our team isn't even focused on the present which is killing us. It is as if the last 5 games have been looked at as scrimmages. I hope we can pull ourselves out of the slump. Get a win you guys!