NFL News of August 20, 2003

Maybe it had something to do with watching gray-haired Brett Favre command the Packers the day before. Or maybe it’s because NFL players look younger every year.

Whatever the reason, we met fuzz-faced Joey Harrington and almost asked him to supersize our order.

He barely looks old enough to drive. Yet here he is in Allen Park, year-round home of the Detroit Lions, steering the renewed hopes of an organization that has lost 28 of its past 33 games.

Franchise quarterback is a heavy title for a second-year pro. Even one who was drafted third overall. Or one whose efficiency excelled in a pro-style offense at Oregon.

“But the thing is I think Joey can handle it,” said Lions guard Ray Brown, who, at 40, is 16 years older than Harrington. “Joey believes he has it, which is half the battle. Last year, [Bears linebacker] Brian Urlacher laid a pretty good hit on him. But Joey got right up, slapped Urlacher on the butt and said, `I’m going to be coming back.’ “

Harrington is back, and this time he has more help. The Lions invested $5 million a year on a respected new coach, Steve Mariucci, and used the second pick in the draft on Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers.

—Mark Craig, The Star Tribune “QB bears lion’s share of Lions’ pressure; Harrington steps up”

Harrington was traded to Miami following the 2005 season and was out of the league by 2008. During his four seasons as a Lion, he compiled a record of 18-37.

Mariucci was fired during the 2005 season. During his 2+ seasons, the Lions were 15-28 and never finished higher than third in their division and never contended for a playoff berth. He has not coached in the NFL since.

Rogers was cut from the Lions before the 2006 season and did not play in the NFL again. He played in 15 games in his career, totaling 36 receptions for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns.  His rookie contract had a maximum value of $54.6 million and the Lions paid the former Michigan State star $16.19 million over three seasons in total bonuses and base salaries.

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