Marinelli: Lions will 'move on' without QB Harrington

Updated: March 21, 2006, 1:56 AM ET
Associated Press

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' scourge.

Detroit Lions

Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
330 188 1885 12 12 72.0

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, Harrington's agent.

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," Kitna said.

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 starter.

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 Harrington.

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," Marinelli said.

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 29 interceptions.

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press