ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are parting ways with
Joey Harrington after four turbulent seasons in which the former
third overall draft pick went from franchise savior to fans'
Although he declined to say whether Harrington had been
released, coach Rod Marinelli told reporters Monday: "I've decided
to move in a different direction with the quarterback."
"At this moment, he's not with us," Marinelli said. "That's
been my decision."
A message seeking comment was left Monday with David Dunn,
Taking Harrington's spot under center most likely will be Jon
Kitna or Josh McCown. The two former NFL starters are expected to
battle for the top quarterbacking job in Detroit.
The Lions announced McCown's signing over the weekend and said
Monday that Kitna was signed to a four-year deal.
The Lions already have under contract former Tampa Bay and
Arizona starter Shaun King and second-year man Dan Orlovsky.
The team is hoping new offensive coordinator Mike Martz can do
what he did in St. Louis with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger:
Transform a lightly regarded quarterback into a star.
McCown, for one, is hoping that will happen.
The 26-year-old from Sam Houston State likes Martz's offensive
schemes and used to discuss them with Warner, whom he backed up
last season in Arizona.
McCown said he's excited about competing with Kitna, and said
both share the same goal of leading the team.
"When you compete and put that out there, it's going to breed
some success," McCown said.
He said he was not worried about Detroit's reputation as a tough
place to be a signal-caller.
"I think that's everywhere. It's the nature of the position. I
think it's going to be well-scrutinized," he said.
Kitna, who sat behind Carson Palmer in Cincinnati the past two
seasons, also has expressed admiration for Martz's offense.
The former Bengal, who was recruited to Detroit before McCown,
said he knew the Lions would have four quarterbacks in training
camp, but he didn't know who they would be.
"I never expected to come here and have the job handed to me,"
He also said he's not worried about the virtual tradition of
quarterbacks' struggles in Detroit.
"Cincinnati was worse. They said Cincinnati was the quarterback
graveyard, and I'm still alive," Kitna said.
When Marinelli and Martz arrived in Detroit, they indicated a
willingness to keep the 27-year-old Harrington on board as the
As recently as last month, Marinelli and team president Matt
Millen indicated that the Lions considered Harrington their top
quarterback for 2006. And Martz said he believed he could work with
Marinelli said Monday that things had changed with Harrington
and he decided to "move in another direction."
He would not say what changed with Harrington. "I'm not going
to go into everything about it," Marinelli said.
He said the quarterback competition is wide open.
"I really like that, too. We've stirred it up a little bit,"
By dumping Harrington, the Lions also lose his hefty contract
nearly four years after making him a top-five pick in the 2002
draft and proclaiming that he would bring long-term stability to
the quarterback position for the first time in half a century.
Harrington, who would have received a $4 million bonus if he was
on the roster June 15, now joins the list of once-promising
signal-callers who fizzled out in Motown. Among them: Chuck Long,
Scott Mitchell, Andre Ware and Rodney Peete.
Now, it's up to McCown, Kitna or perhaps one of the others to
help turn around a franchise that has won a single playoff game
since 1957 and posted a league-worst 21-59 record since 2001.
The Cardinals selected McCown in the third round of the 2002
draft and used him sparingly as a rookie. But he started 22 games
the last three seasons, throwing for 5,431 yards, 25 touchdowns and
He was praised in Arizona for refusing to express bitterness
despite losing the starting job three times under coach Dennis
Green. The Cardinals decided to go with Warner for next year,
signing the former NFL MVP last month. He also was a free agent.
Kitna, 33, is a nine-year veteran who spent the past five
seasons with the Bengals. He started his career in Seattle.
He led the Bengals to an 8-8 mark in coach Marvin Lewis' first
season as head coach in 2003 and earned the NFL Comeback Player of
the Year award before making way for Palmer in 2004.
For his career, Kitna has thrown for more than 18,000 yards and
108 touchdowns against 104 interceptions.
Kitna unexpectedly saw time in Cincinnati's first-round playoff
loss to Pittsburgh in January after Palmer was knocked out of the
game with a knee injury. He finished 24-of-40 for 197 yards with
two interceptions and four sacks. He kept the Bengals in it until
the third quarter.