Joey Harrington on time with Lions: 'This wasn't football'

The Detroit News
Joey Harrington with the Lions in 2005.

Former Lions quarterback Joey Harrington, in a first-person story for Sports Illustrated, wrote that he lost all confidence in his ability in Detroit and that by the time he left the team he was "a shell of the player" he once was.

Harrington was drafted third overall in 2002 after an outstanding career at Oregon; he was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2001 and a first-team All-American.

But he had little success with the Lions from 2002-05, racking up double-digit interceptions each season. The Lions won three games in 2002, five in 2003, six in 2004 and five in 2005.

In the Sports Illustrated story, Harrington says his teammates lost respect for him.

"Toward the end of my tenure in Detroit, (president Matt) Millen and I sat down and talked," Harrington wrote. "He asked me flat out if I wanted to be there anymore. I told him I didn't know. He'd just brought in Mike Martz — at the time one of the NFL's most celebrated offensive gurus. ... It was Millen's belief that Mike could get me back on track. After Matt, I spoke with the new head coach, Rod Marinelli.

"'Look, Rod,' I said. 'If you want me to be here, I will be here, because I respect you, and I respect Matt. But with the exception of one or two guys in that locker room … the rest of them can go to hell.'

"At that point, I felt like I'd given everything, had sacrificed for my teammates, and all they'd done was hang me out to dry. The day everything happened with Dre' Bly — the scapegoat saga — only two people came up to me and said anything: One guy in the locker room, and the chef in the cafeteria."

Bly, a cornerback, publicly blamed Harrington coach Steve Mariucci getting fired.

"Mariucci was a good guy who was trying to save his job, but when one of my teammates went out and said I was the reason our coach got fired, it created a situation where I just imploded mentally. I couldn't handle it," Harrington wrote. "This wasn't football. This wasn't team. This wasn't fun."