Sunday, September 6, 2009

Harrington to Green Bay? Could Be, But Don't Expect a Miracle.

Michael Lombardi over at the National Football Post says aloud what I was thinking yesterday when I saw Joey Harrington was cut from the Saints. He's worth a shot in green and gold.

I’m hearing the Packers might make a move for Joey Harrington now that the Brian Brohm era has ended in Green Bay. Brohm never looked quick-minded or in rhythm the past two summers. Matt Flynn clearly out-played Brohm and looked like he had a much better command of the offense.

Obviously, I wish he would give us a little more to go on, but ever since the Lions let Harrington go, I thought he might be a good reclamation project for the Packers. Harrington hasn't thrown a meaningful pass in the NFL since 2007, and after being cut by the Saints in favor of 39-year-old Mark Brunell, you have to think Joey's at the end of his rope.

It's too bad. The former third pick overall can join a pretty exclusive club of quarterbacks that watched their high potential get shot because the team that drafted them decided they would be so much better off behind a terrible offensive line and no talent surrounding him in the backfield.

Mr. Harrington, meet Mr. Couch. This is his friend, Mr. Akili Smith, and over there is Mr. Carr. Here's another relative newcomer to "the club", Mr. Alex Smith.

Aaron Rodgers can thank Brett Favre for his stubborn passion to keep on playing into his AARP eligibility. There is no doubt in my mind that had a jumpy, pressure-unaware rookie quarterback lined up behind Wil Whittaker and Adrian Klemm, been handing off to Samkon Gado and throwing towards Antonio Chatman, Rodgers would also be a member of this club.

Rodgers' time on the bench was well-served, not only for his own maturation, but for Thompson to have time to build a team around him that would allow him to learn good habits on the playing field, not simply how to panic and scramble away from sacks, as David Carr did.

Is Harrington a lost cause? Chances are pretty good. Tim Couch and Akili Smith each attempted a comeback with the Packers under coach Mike Sherman, and both didn't show any measurable improvement over their Brown/Bengal days.

But coach Mike McCarthy has been lauded for his quarterback development skills, from Aaron Brooks to Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. Certainly, Matt Flynn has to be a feather in his cap, too. If Ted Thompson wants to bring in Joey Harrington, it has the potential to be a good situation.

For Harrington, he would have the luxury of sitting behind a strong young quarterback and try and break down the bad habits he learned playing for the Lions. He would have a strong mentor in McCarthy and have some time to relearn his trade.

For the Packers, they would have a veteran presence on the team who could have familiarity with the system in the event Rodgers were to go down for extended time (instead of a mid-season free agent pickup). No offense to Flynn, but we haven't seen him against #1 defenses yet, and his injury situation has to make you think that the #3 guy is just a hit or two away from starting.

Obviously, it is that line of thinking that likely led to Ted Thompson cutting Brian Brohm, and Harrington would at least bring NFL experience to a scaled-back offense in the event of catastrophic injuries to the quarterbacking corps.

But, let's be honest, too. Like Carr, Couch, and Smith, quarterbacks who have had their formative years marred by ineptitude around them (and the pressure of being the "savior" who is supposed to single-handedly raise the entire offense) rarely bounce back. Vinny Testaverde might be one example of a quarterback who suffered through such a beginning and was able to become a solid veteran backup for many years.

For the most part, however, Harrington hasn't thrived in any other places after Detroit (Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans), and isn't likely to raise the level of his game unless he is truly willing to break down everything he's learned and start over again. He has a lifetime quarterback efficiency rating of 69.4, certainly nothing worth writing home about.

However, the talent of the teams he's played on over the years are certainly in question. The Lions from 2002-2005, under Matt Millen's leadership, set a record for most consecutive road losses (24). His next season as a part-time starter for the Miami Dolphins saw the team finish 6-10, but Harrington himself was 5-6 as a starter. In Atlanta, he played on the 4-12 team that virtually imploded following the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal.

In other words, he's never been surrounded by the talent the Packers have right now. Like anything else, it's a risk to bring in a guy like Harrington. There's precious little history that would lead us to believe that he would be able to ascend above what he's been bred to do in Detroit.

And some of his biggest knocks are some of the same ones that we just jettisoned with Brian Brohm: lack of mobility in the pocket, forced passes, and playing "soft".

But, as many of Brohm's defenders commented, the chance that a third-string quarterback will see significant time in the regular season is pretty slim, and the Packers have to balance developing a young prospect with potential versus putting some veteran experience in that spot. Flynn's injury status has to make both McCarthy and Thompson realize what a risk they took in 2008 with little experience behind a starting quarterback who had his own injury history.

It might be Harrington, and it might not. But with the departure of a young project that many felt "just needed time", you get the feeling that Ted Thompson isn't looking for another young, raw talent at this point.

1 comment:

Packer Haiku said...

Joey Harrington
Flynn, Brohm... It doesn't matter
No 12, no playoffs.