After watching his team blow a late lead and lose to a backup quarterback, Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci seems to be losing confidence in his own signal caller.
The Lions try to rebound from a tough loss as they visit the Cleveland Browns.
Joey Harrington committed three turnovers and was sacked six times as the Lions lost 21-20 to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. Harrington was 17-for-28 for 201 yards, with 86 of them coming on one pass to tight end Marcus Pollard.
Harrington and Jeff Garcia split the snaps in practice all week, although Mariucci still has not named his starting quarterback for this game.
Harrington celebrated his 27th birthday Friday, but left the practice field wondering whether he still holds his starting job.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s an odd feeling. This has been my job, and that’s something I’ve taken pride in. I always feel like I’m playing to keep a job, but this is a little more anxious.”
Mariucci’s only hint was that he planned to talk extensively to Garcia and the team’s medical staff about Garcia’s recovery from the leg and ankle injuries he sustained in the preseason. Garcia played last season with Browns before signing with Detroit.
Harrington, the third overall pick in the 2002 draft, has completed 53.1 percent of his passes for an average of 159.6 yards with eight interceptions and four touchdowns this season.
Garcia started 81 games for San Francisco and Cleveland from 1999-2004. In 10 starts last year with the Browns, he threw 10 TDs and nine interceptions, but Mariucci knows him as a three-time Pro Bowler from when he coached him while with the 49ers.
At least one of Harrington’s teammates feels he deserves to be benched.
“There needs to be a change, because something is clearly not right,” guard Damien Woody said. “I love Joey to death, but historically, that’s the position where the change takes place. When things are going good, he gets the glory, and when it goes bad, he takes the fall.”
While Harrington directed only two scoring drives against Carolina—both ended with field goals by Jason Hanson—Chris Weinke replaced an injured Jake Delhomme and threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 32 seconds to play for the winning margin.
Although Weinke was 5-for-7 for 47 yards on the winning drive, Detroit shut down running back Stephen Davis and scored two defensive TDs as linebacker Boss Bailey and safety Kenoy Kennedy both returned interceptions for scores.
“We are playing aggressive defense,” Mariucci said. “We are playing smart. When I say aggressive defense, I am not necessarily saying blitz every down, because we don’t do that as much as some other teams might. We are making plays at the ball. We are returning them like we practiced. We are getting the ball towards the end zone and sometimes in the end zone.”
The Browns faced an aggressive defense in their last game, a 16-3 loss at Baltimore last Sunday. Cleveland’s quarterback also struggled as Trent Dilfer went 16-of-30 for 147 yards and an interception against his former team. He also lost two fumbles and was sacked four times.
Reuben Droughns was held to 55 yards on 15 carries and Cleveland, which scored a season-high 26 points in a win over Chicago on Oct. 9, had only 12 first downs.
“We’re still in the hole and we’ve got to battle to get even again,” Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. “When you have a performance like we had, everything needs work. We have to get good at the basics and try to give ourselves a chance.”
Browns rookie receiver Braylon Edwards has had a quick recovery from an infection in his right arm, and may be back in the lineup sooner than expected.
Edwards practiced with the team Wednesday on a limited basis and was listed as doubtful for this game.
“I’m not ruling Braylon out,” Crennel said.
Edwards, the No. 3 overall draft pick, was hospitalized for four days following surgery Oct. 8 to cut out the infection. He was expected to miss at least a month.