Monday, November 29, 2004

5 Straight losses doesn't cut it

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!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Harrington just doesn't cut it..

With our 3 game losing streak, it is becoming more and more apparent that Harrington isn't cutting it for us. Which is a shame because he was such a promising player in college but it just hasn't shown yet.
From Detroit Free Press:
Detroit goes through quarterbacks like tissues.

They're easily disposable, momentarily offering relief, clearing your head but quickly outliving their usefulness because it seems you always need a fresh one five minutes later.


Five minutes is about the average shelf life for Lions quarterbacking competence in the past four decades.

The degree of patience is even less.

Branding Joey Harrington an irreversible failure remains overly premature, but concerns that his Lions career is leaning closer to getting crumpled and tossed into the trash are legitimate.

Harrington looks neither comfortable nor confident, an uneasiness shared inside the locker room and the coaches' offices.

Benching him isn't the answer because there's even less faith in backup Mike McMahon, leaving Steve Mariucci and Matt Millen with no choice but to tread water the remainder of this season and bring in a veteran capable of seriously challenging Harrington for the starting job next season.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the strategy when vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. circumvented Millen's authority and demanded that the Lions draft Harrington with the third pick in the 2002 draft.

The Lions blew it again, interested more in marketing a star than developing a quarterback.

The Fords needed a lure to their new downtown palace, and the most tantalizing bait for fans remains the hope that they've finally secured a quarterback who eventually would become the envy of the rest of the NFL.

But the Lions screwed up in not properly preparing Harrington. Where was the veteran presence when it could have made a difference?

Harrington's qualifications for becoming the starter three games into his rookie season were his fat contract and the public's ravenous curiosity. He has never had to win the job. He has never been pushed. And, as a result, it's impossible for him to be truly accountable for his mistakes.

Harrington obviously desires to play well, but he -- and everybody in that franchise -- knows he doesn't have to play well to keep his job because the Lions have surrounded him with little more than veteran advisors like Ty Detmer, not a true challenger.

Cincinnati awarded the starting quarterbacking job to Carson Palmer a year after taking him No. 1 overall. He hadn't earned the opportunity but harsh salary-cap ramifications for making the wrong decisions force teams to accelerate evaluations. But notice that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't jettison last year's rather successful starter, Jon Kitna.

That sent the proper message to Palmer. He would have to fight for his teammates' respect because repeated stumbles would place him back on the bench.

The New York Giants traded up to get Eli Manning, but they also brought in Kurt Warner to keep a steady fire burning under the rookie. Manning has impressed coaches enough to warrant his first start this weekend, but he'll still have a former two-time MVP looking over his shoulder.

Marty Mornhinweg and Mariucci bowed to their egos, foolishly believing they could transform the technically flawed McMahon into an effective challenger. But that's now an aborted ambition.

And now they're paying the price.

The Lions got the second and third overall draft picks in successive years, and their worst nightmare is that they will have nothing to show for it, stalling another rebuilding effort.

The dreams of a high-powered Joey Harrington-Charles Rogers tandem lasted ... about five minutes.

Rogers, the former Michigan State star, is basically damaged goods, and it can't help that Harrington's erratic arm leaves receivers too vulnerable for punishment when crossing the middle. Az-Zahir Hakim has taken so many shots to the body he can hardly walk. That's not exactly what somebody recovering from back-to-back broken collarbones wants weighing on his mind.

There's nothing wrong with competition. The Lions forgot that when they anointed Harrington. History paralyzed their common sense. They feared another quarterback quandary.

But that may be unavoidable now.

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Stellar Career Celebrated


ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After 13 seasons of serving as the Detroit Lions' defensive linchpin, linemen Robert Porcher was granted a release from the team Monday afternoon, with the intent on filing his official retirement papers soon.

Flanked by Lions President and CEO Matt Millen and head coach Steve Mariucci at the team's headquarters, an emotional Porcher met with the media, to reflect upon and celebrate his numerous professional and community achievements with the same franchise.

"We have the utmost respect for Robert, as a person, as a Lion...he's going to be a great alum," says Mariucci. "We thank him for everything he's ever done for this organization...we're proud of him, and he'll always be a Lion."

Mixing in some tears with his warm smile, Porcher expressed how blessed he felt to remain with the organization, city and hearty fan base throughout the years.

"Every player, we all think we can play forever; (but) sometimes there comes a point when you've got to let go," says Porcher, who ranks No. 3 for games played (187) with the Lions, trailing only Wayne Walker (200) and current kicker Jason Hanson (199). "To be able to say you played with the team that drafted you and still have a chance to say good-bye when your (career clock) expires...I can't say enough about that."

Porcher had been prepared for this scenario for a few months. And he had conducted regular discussions with Lions officials, as to how the final exit strategy would occur.

"Given the fact that he expressed his desire to be nothing but a Detroit Lion," says Millen, "(letting him retire) is probably the best way for us to go right now."

Asked if he ever considered playing for another team, Porcher shrugged off the notion before saying, "I wouldn't even look right in another uniform -- I'm a Detroit Lion. It's all about loyalty for me."

Selected as a first-rounder in the 1992 NFL Draft (South Carolina State), the 6-foot-3 pass rusher combined his athletic grace and raw power to become an immediate presence on the resurgent Lions. But he vividly recalls his nervousness for Detroit's regular-season opener at Chicago that season.

At first, he was awestruck by some of the Bears' legends, including Richard Dent and Steve McMichael. That is, until a friendly face, nose tackle Jerry Ball, put things into perspective.

"He said, 'Hey, this is for real...snap out of it!'" says Porcher, smiling at the memory.

The Lions' all-time career sack leader (95.5), Porcher led the team in this department eight different seasons (1993, 1996-01, 2003), making him the only Lion to accomplish this feat.

The 35-year old South Carolina native has appeared in three Pro Bowls, registered double-digit sack totals in four consecutive years (1996-99) and was the only active NFL defensive end to be in double-digits from 1996-99. And though he is proud of his individual records, he also knows the landmarks may someday be eclipsed by the current group of talented linemen -- most notably tackle Shaun Rogers and end James Hall.

"I just wish these guys the best of luck, because you know what? We have a chance to be really, really special," he says.

With his newfound "free" time, Porcher can devote more resources to his many business interests in Detroit: co-owner of "Seldom Blues," a jazz supper club located in the Renaissance Center; co-founder of the Detroit Football Classic, a fledgling event which captures the true essence of historically black college football; and a board member of the Super Bowl XL Host Committee, a Detroit-based organization that oversees the day-to-day activities for the city hosting the Super Bowl in February 2006.

Also, Porcher and his wife, Kimberly, are tireless fundraisers for cancer research, on behalf of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

And when he can catch his breath from all that, the father of three has plans on touring the world, especially a lengthy visit to Africa. "I'm just closing a chapter in a life. This is not the end for me," Porcher says. "And I'm OK with that."

On Dec. 26, the Lions will formally honor Porcher during the club's final home game versus Chicago.