Nearly one decade ago the savior was “born” in Detroit. Or so we thought.
On April 20th, 2002 the Detroit Lions selected a golden armed QB from the Pacific Northwest to save their struggling franchise. Things seemed to be looking up when the Lions at that point. A freshly hired Matt Millen–need I remind his hiring lauded by fans and media alike–took over a floundering franchise still looking for an identity after their superstar left them for the retirement home at the ripe old age of 30. The Lions were forced to look for a new direction and a lot of people thought Millen would get them there.
In his second draft, Millen took the college superstar QB from the University of Oregon with their first pick, number 3 overall. It was expected that Harrington would be the player to lead the Lions back to relevance in the NFL. However, after some modest success during his rookie season, Harrington quickly became a fish out of water in the gritty Detroit environment. His positive attitude never wavered after the piling loses which fueled the ire of fans and media. Fans wanted a player to show anger in his play and in the effort of teammates, rather than a poorly orchestrated charade with an “all is well” tone. Harrington was never going to be that guy, rather he lived up to his “Joey Blue Skies” nickname given to him by the local media and “champagne and strawberries” persona made national by Tony Siragusa during a FOX broadcast.
Unlike subsequent drafts, Millen had a little potential in his 2002 draft–ultimately unfulfilled, but potential nonetheless. Harrington, while a failure in Detroit overall, showed some flashes and ability but was likely doomed from the start based upon where he was drafted. If he had gone to the closer to home Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers, perhaps his career would have ended differently.
While Harrington no doubt tried but failed, the Lions second round pick–Kalimba Edwards–was the epitome of underachiever. A gifted pass rusher, Edwards somehow managed to prove how important that skill is by getting a couple of decent paydays despite years of half hearted attempts on the football field. Andre Goodman was probably the best overall pro of the 2002 Lions draft class–in fact he’s the only player still in the league from that draft class. The 3rd round pick has started every game he played in the last 4 season and has been a serviceable starter.
4th round pick John Taylor was a project that didn’t pan out, 5th rounder John Owens and 7th rounder Matt Murphy were backup TEs who stuck around for awhile and 7th round RB Luke Staley and OT Victor Rogers had their careers derailed by injuries. 6th round pick Chris Cash was a sleeper pick his first season after accumulating 100 tackles as a rookie, however knee injuries quickly derailed his career and he was out of football in 2006, after a brief stint with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.