Despite losses, Lions to stick with Kitna as QB
The losses keep mounting and so do the interceptions, but Detroit Lions first-year coach Rod Marinelli isn't going to alter the way he has approached the rebuilding of a team that has now suffered six straight seasons of double-digit defeats, and isn't going to change his quarterback, either.
"I see Jon as our starter for next year," Marinelli said. "He's going to come in and finish this, because he brings everything that we want. He's a heck of a quarterback."
It's not known if that vote of confidence from Marinelli means the Lions will not consider Brady Quinn of Notre Dame in the 2007 draft. Quinn is regarded near-universally as the top quarterback in the 2007 lottery, perhaps the No. 1 prospect overall, and the Lions, who are tied with the Oakland Raiders for worst record in the NFL, could have the first selection.
Marinelli has been unwavering, though, in his support of Kitna all season. And it is not surprising for him to suggest that the 11-year veteran will be unchallenged for the starting job in 2007, even though some of Kitna's numbers, particularly his interceptions, have become alarming.
Kitna threw three interceptions in the 28-21 loss to the Patriots, raising his interceptions to 16 for the year, the third most in the league. He has now thrown at least one interception in 10 straight games and seven of his interceptions have come in the fourth quarter. In only two contests this season has Kitna thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions.
Playing behind an offensive line ravaged by injuries, Kitna has been sacked a league-worst 46 times.
At the same time, Kitna has amassed 3,190 passing yards, third most in the league, and figures to surpass his career best, 3,591 yards, established when he started all 16 games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003. He has played well at times in the offense designed by coordinator Mike Martz, been a team leader, has performed consistently for the most part, and, critically important to the tough-as-nails Marinelli, been a stand-up guy on and off the field.
While there have been some suggestions that it might be time to give the younger and more mobile Josh McCown a start or two before the end of season, Marinelli has rebuffed that possibility. Kitna is his guy, it seems, for the long-term.
"I feel very good about him," Marinelli said. "And we're going to continue to feel good about him."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .
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