Friday, November 24, 2006

No Hall Of Famer, But Pal Joey Proves He Can Be A Winner

The way I see it, about the only thing that was proven in the Lions' most recent Thanksgiving Day yawner is a basic creed of football: your quarterback is only as good as his supporting cast.

Joey Harrington, last I checked, never lined up on the offensive line, never tried his hand at covering opposing receivers, never rushed the other team's quarterback. He didn't install the West Coast offense, didn't drop passes, and didn't draft players and hire coaches without doing the necessary due diligence.

None of this should be news to anyone around here, but I get the feeling that there is a robust segment of the Lions fans population to whom it is this morning as they stab at their cold turkey and dried out stuffing.

Good for Joey.

That was pretty much my thought as I saw Harrington fillet the Lions for three TD passes in the Miami Dolphins' 27-10 whipping of the Honolulu Blue and Silver yesterday at Ford Field. It was also my thought when my boss at MCS Magazine, publisher Muneesh Jain, called me after the game and told me that Harrington could barely wipe the grin off his face as he spoke to the media.

Good for Joey.

He's gone now, enjoying the sun and reduced pressure of South Florida. Today he plays with Dolphins in Miami, after four seasons in which the football denizens around Motown would have him swimming with the fishes.

Maybe the problem people had with Joey Harrington in Detroit was -- and I think this might be semi-legitimate -- there wasn't the feeling that he could rise above some of the muck and present himself as a diamond stick pin amongst the tattered hand-me-downs. Never did the folks in Detroit think, "Well, the rest of the team is horse feathers, but at least we have Joey."

You know, what they said about Barry Sanders.

But Harrington is not the QB version of Sanders, and how unfair is it to expect him to be? Yes, the quarterback will forever be the lightning rod for every struggling NFL team, of which there seems to be 16 every week. But not often are they the sole problem. In fact, rarely are they so.

Troy Aikman. Terry Bradshaw. Joe Montana. Steve Young.

I'll give you your pick of any of these names to run your football team in their prime, and I doubt you'd be unhappy with your choice. Hall of Famers, all of them. But each of them was a version of horse feathers before personnel and system changes were made that turned them into stallions.

Aikman: suffered through a 1-15 season in Dallas before drafts and trades brought him Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and an offensive line. Super Bowl wins followed, "miraculously."

Bradshaw: was a stumbling, bumbling hick from Louisiana until he righted himself, helped greatly by a dynamic defense, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth. Lombardi trophies ensued.

Montana: The 49'ers were a team in disarray, O.J. Simpson's swan song club, when Montana and coach Bill Walsh arrived at the same time. Some offensive philosophy changes, some influx of talent, and within three seasons, Walsh was being carried off the field at the Silverdome, a world champion. Montana-led champs.

Young: A lefty gunslinger who scuffled along in the old USFL, then in the NFL with the putrid Buccaneers of Tampa Bay, before finding his way as Montana's heir apparent in San Francisco. Funny how his Hall path ventured thru the Bay -- and I don't mean Tampa's.

Joey Harrington is not a Hall of Fame quarterback. That much is fairly certain. But he proved yesterday that he can be quite serviceable, if surrounded with the right people and in the right environment. The fact that neither were present in Detroit during his four years here hardly was proven yesterday. That had been sealed long ago.

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