NFL Draft NFL Draft

Draft Tracker
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Prospects by:
Players | Teams
Schools | Positions

Team Pages:

Also See
It's official: Carr headed to Houston

 NFL Draft 2002
The Detroit Lions select Joey Harrington as the No.3 pick in the draft.
Standard | Cable Modem

 NFL Draft 2002
Joey Harrington is excited about playing in Detroit.
Standard | Cable Modem

 Building excitement in Pontiac
NFL Draft on ESPNRadio: Joey Harrington was surprised to be the Lions pick

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story

Saturday, April 20, 2002
Updated: April 23, 2:10 PM ET
Mornhinweg gets his man in Harrington
By Len Paquarelli

What could have been an insufferable exercise for Joey Harrington, a player universally regarded as the No. 2 quarterback candidate in the 2002 draft but a prospect so uncertain of his own spot in the lottery that he canceled a planned trip to New York for the proceedings, ended less than 40 minutes into the vigil.

Harrington quickly moved from the microscope to the spotlight, chosen third overall by the Detroit Lions, who like many teams had debated his merits for the past several weeks. If there remain any doubts about Harrington's arm strength, one of the question marks that had been raised by talent evaluators, there is no denying the strength of his conviction.

Joey Harrington
Joey Harrington didn't attend the draft in person because of uncertainty on when he'd be selected.
"No matter where I was picked," said Harrington after the suspense became an overhyped subplot, "I feel like I am going to be pretty successful (in the NFL) over a long period of time. I'm sure happy I didn't have to wait very long to get a chance to get started. But I know that if I went (third) or even 103rd, I'm a good player. And that's what I concentrated on when everyone was talking about me slipping in the (first) round."

The decision to select Harrington, hardly the "unanimous" choice that Detroit president Matt Millen insisted it was, crystallized in 48-72 hours preceding the draft. The initiative was supplied by Lions ownership, which felt the passion demonstrated by coach Marty Mornhinweg overshadowed the split sentiments in the organization and knew that a club moving into a new stadium needs a high-profile performer.

Another key factor was that neither Millen nor the Detroit scouts were in agreement on any of the other possible choices, such as Texas cornerback Quentin Jammer, the player most experts had assigned at the Lions' No. 3 spot.

Earlier in the spring, when Mornhinweg seemed almost too eager at times to discuss the physical skills of Harrington, it appeared the coach was more concerned with creating a smoke screen. Conventional wisdom held that because Mornhinweg was so enamored with second-year quarterback Mike McMahon, who finished 2001 as the starter, all he was trying to do was create a market for teams interested in trading up for Harrington.

More surprising than the Lions' selection of Harrington, though, was the lack of action Detroit got from teams pursuing the Oregon quarterback. In fact, team sources confirmed to that the only serious suitor seeking to move up for Harrington was Washington, and the Redskins lacked the ammunition to swap all the way up from 18th.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers spoke casually with Detroit about moving into the third spot, but they were looking at other prospects, not Harrington.

Why Harrington?
Mark Malone: Does this have to do with the Lions wanting to put butts in the seats?

Simeon Rice: This pick makes no sense to me. Mike McMahon is off the hook. I don't know why they'd want Harrington at this point.

Corey Chavous: Even though the Lions picked Harrington, don't count out Mike McMahon right now -- can you ever have enough QBs?

Matt Light: Mike McMahon should be enough to put butts in the seats -- he's a super exciting player to watch.

Tim Brown: The unfortunate thing about this pick is that it now makes McMahon wonder about his ability. I'm sure they told him they were planning on taking Harrington, but this can't be a good feeling for him right now.
--'s audio draft roundtable

Had the Lions not selected Harrington, though, his wait wouldn't have lasted much longer. Buffalo, with the next choice, would have taken him.

"I just think he's got special tools, both mentally and physically, to tell you the truth," Mornhinweg said. "He can make all the throws, everyone knows that, but what he has goes beyond throwing the football. Joey has great poise and leadership. Even on tape, you can see his team rallying up around him, and how many times did he bring them back in the fourth quarter?"

Over the past two seasons, Harrington resuscitated Oregon from 11 fourth-quarter deficits, and his calm displayed in those situations became a trademark.

Recalled former Ducks cornerback Rashad Bauman, another prospect in the 2002 draft: "If we needed to go 80 yards for a touchdown and there was one minute remaining and we had a timeout, shoot, we knew we were going to win. No defense was going to stop Joey in that kind of situation. He did it so many times, he became like a miracle man, and we all believed in him."

If not all the Lions believe yet in Harrington, he could quickly make converts, and all he need use as his proselytizing tool is his track record. Harrington started 28 college contests. He completed 512 of 928 passes for 6,911 yards, with 59 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions. In 2001, he threw 27 touchdown passes but just six interceptions.

More significant than those passing statistics, though, is this number: In the 106 seasons in which Oregon fielded a football team before Harrington became the starter, the school posted just two seasons with 10 or more victories. Harrington led the team to double digit wins in both his seasons as the starter.

"I listened to all the doubts about him that people were espousing the last month or so and I laughed," said Oregon coach Mike Bellotti. "The guy is the greatest competitor I have ever seen. That's all you need to know."

Harrington, 23, will need that competitive nature. Despite his high first-round status, the Lions brain trust emphasized Saturday he will not be handed the starting job. The guess is that not only will McMahon go to camp as the starter, but will open the year as such. But it might not take long for Harrington to supplant him.

From his standpoint, Harrington wasn't prepared on Saturday to start worrying about a timetable. This is a young man, after all, who wasn't sure whether the wait for his name to be called should be timed with a stopwatch or an hour glass.

"As tough as the past few months have been, getting ready for that, the hard work really starts now," Harrington said. "But I'm ready for it."

Len Pasquarelli is an senior writer.