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Published: Monday, 4/25/2005

Pressure rests on Harrington's shoulders now

New backup quarterback Jeff Garcia may wield the most power of all the Detroit Lions in 2005.

Garcia, not starting quarterback Joey Harrington, has all the leverage.

Garcia picked the perfect time to reunite with coach Steve Mariucci.

He's joining a Detroit offense loaded with talented young receivers - and that was before the Lions drafted Mike Williams.

Harrington Harrington
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He's also second-string behind Harrington, who's expected to become the quarterback of record or play his way out of a job next season.

Garcia isn't the best quarterback ever to play for Mariucci. But Garcia, who went to three Pro Bowls when Mariucci was coaching the 49ers, might be Mariucci's favorite.

Garcia hasn't thrown a pass in a Lions game, and he's already becoming a fan favorite as the QB most likely to replace Harrington.

After investing yet another No. 1 draft pick in a receiver, Mariucci and team president Matt Millen can't afford failure.

Until Garcia's arrival, the Lions didn't have a legitimate backup quarterback, someone to challenge Harrington for playing time.

Millen and Mariucci have finally put the pressure where it belongs - on Harrington.

Harrington, who has been nothing more than a role player in his first three seasons, will be asked to start resembling the cocky quarterback from Oregon who was the third player taken in the 2002 draft.

If he can't meet those expectations, the Lions now have someone who can.

From his first day in training camp, Harrington will be scanning the defense while also looking over his shoulder for Garcia.

Garcia has all the power. Harrington has all the pressure.

Good. If legitimate competition is what it takes to make Harrington a better quarterback, Garcia will be well worth the investment.

Harrington will likely be on a very short leash next season. Time will tell if Mariucci becomes known as the Captain Hook of the NFL and changes quarterbacks.

Given that this is Harrington's year of reckoning, and given that the Lions have more weapons on offense than they know what to do with, everyone is going to second-guess Mariucci and new offensive coordinator Ted Tollner if they don't rearrange some of the components of the West Coast offense and install a high-powered passing attack.

With Mike Williams, Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Kevin Johnson and tight end Marcus Pollard, the Lions can - and should - flood the field with receivers.

Millen and Mariucci have never looked as happy as they did after drafting Mike Williams. They struggled to keep the smiles off their faces.

"You can tell in our voices how excited we are to have a guy like this," Mariucci said.

The selection of Mike Williams has led the Lions coaches to believe they have acquired another playmaking receiver and that they now have the tools to run a fastbreak offense.

"We very much want to do that," Tollner said Saturday following the Lions' selection of Mike Williams. "We have to give these receivers, and Joey, a chance to throw the ball down the field."



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