Monday, October 24, 2005
For One Game Anyway, The Toothpaste Doesn't Need To Be Put Back In The Tube
The Lions' latest savior is 1-0
In the NFL, the rule goes, there’s always some poor team worse off than you are. The trick is finding that team on Sunday.
The Lions found it, all right -- across Lake Erie, practically in their own backyard. The Cleveland Browns, it seems, are more of a mess than our football team is currently, which partly explains the Lions’ 13-10 victory yesterday in Cleveland.
But the Browns’ ineptitude -- their offense makes the Lions’ look like USC’s -- wasn’t the only reason the Lions came away with just their fourth road victory in their last 35 games away from Detroit.
The other reason -- and I hate to do this because I’m not one to agree with QB changes -- involves Jeff Garcia. I guess when I look at the choice of one quarterback over the other, I ask, "Does the new guy do things the other guy can’t or won’t?" And for one game, anyway, Jeff Garcia did so many things Joey Harrington hasn’t/couldn’t, it was almost ridiculous.
There was the rushing touchdown, for one. In case you haven’t been keeping track, Harrington has rushed for the same amount of touchdowns as I have in his four seasons here (that’s zero, in case you forgot I don’t play for the Lions). But Jeff Garcia, on 4th and goal from the one yard line, somehow managed to look for a receiver, not like what he saw, and take off running for paydirt. That sort of thing happens several times every week in the NFL, except in Detroit. Until now.
Garcia, playing on a leg that he described as "70%" earlier in the week, scrambled and ducked and twirled and twisted, sometimes leading to nothing more than a throwaway incompletion, but other times he actually found willing receivers of shuffle passes and bullets alike. All day I seemed to be saying, "Joey could NEVER have done that." And it wasn’t just the bleating of a success-starved Lions fan, either; Joey truly couldn’t have done the things I saw Jeff Garcia do yesterday. I also think it’s rather safe to say I am hardly alone today in that analysis.
Quarterback changes in mideason are the true toothpaste tube-squeezing moves coaches make, if you get my drift. If Garcia had gone out Sunday and stunk up the joint, like Ty Detmer did in Cleveland back in 2001, throwing 25 interceptions or whatever it was, then Steve Mariucci would have had a real dilemma. (Coach, here’s your paint, and there’s your corner). But it all ended up swell, for one game at least, and already Mooch was wondering, in the postgame press conference, if Garcia would be healthy enough to keep being the starter. Such are the questions one asks when the new QB is coming off a broken leg.
Chances are, Garcia will indeed be healthy enough and he will be calling the signals when the Lions host the Bears this Sunday. Speaking of the Bears, they are tied with the Lions atop the NFC North at 3-3, which makes this next game a battle for first place, I guess. Laugh at the record if you must, but the Lions haven’t played for the division lead as "late" as October 30 since....well, let me get back to you on that one. So it’s Bears-Lions for the North lead at Ford Field -- be there or be square. Okay, so it’s not a REAL division, but it’s ours and so what else is there to do but get into it a little bit?
Another piece to the Lions’ victory puzzle is the team’s baffling knack for creating turnovers and taking advantage of them. They did it again yesterday, picking off Trent Dilfer three times. By the way, if you think Joey Harrington isn’t your cup of tea.....Anyhow, the Lions’ DB’s have a nose for the ball -- you have to give them that. And, mostly, the turnovers lead to points, though Garcia did have a "Joey moment" at the end of the first half -- actually, Damien Woody did when he made a false start -- during the frantic push to turn R.W. McQuarters’ interception with a minute to go into a field goal at the very least. But other than that hiccup, the Lions under Garcia’s leadership weren’t flashy, but they made enough plays to control the clock and there appeared to be an intangible feeling that the guys were somehow playing harder for their new quarterback. Again, I hate to buy into that stuff most of the time, but it was hard not to notice the difference in the overall effort pre-Garcia and yesterday.
The problem is, Jeff Garcia is simply not the long-term answer to whatever ails the Lions offense. He may not even be, frankly, the short-term solution. There are plenty more games he could screw up, you know. But I suppose he is more of a short-term solution than Joey Harrington is, by a few whiskers. After that, who knows?
It may be a bit of a leap to say that Joey Harrington has taken his last snap as Lions quarterback, as what happened to Scott Mitchell in 1998 when he was replaced by -- ahem -- Charlie Batch, but it is within the realm of possibility to suggest that we may not see Pal Joey -- barring injury/reinjury -- for quite some time. Jeff Garcia has the reigns now, and isn’t that what most everyone wanted, from Mariucci to the fans and perhaps even the players?
So what do you know -- a quarterback change actually worked here, albeit for one game. But what happens when Garcia throws some interceptions and fumbles a couple times and generally looks like a 35 year-old has-been?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.