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Joey Harrington looks back fondly on NFL career


Joey Harrington's football legacy is a complicated one and in a revealing essay for Sports Illustrated and The Cauldron this week, the former No. 3 overall pick (2002) aired some of his grievances while letting everyone know that he's more than happy with the way his six-year NFL career turned out.

Every game, all season

Coached by Steve Mariucci, now an NFL Media analyst, Harrington said he struggled with the coach's style and told a story about a low point during his early career.

I remember walking into the office of then head coach Steve Mariucci and telling him, "I need you to give me permission to throw the ball down the field." I'd never felt so down. At that point, I was just searching -- grasping? -- for some kind of support.

"Why do you need permission?" he asked.

"I'm afraid to make a mistake," I said. "You tell me every day, if it's close, check it down ... and I've gotten into a rhythm where all I do is check it down, and I'm afraid to throw it down the field."

He got up, went to his closet, grabbed a toothbrush, and started brushing his teeth. Then he walked towards the door, and said, "I have to go do some interviews. I'll be back. If you want to come back later, we can talk."

He just left.

That was at the very end, when things had all but collapsed around me. 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 had worse things to say about short-term head coach Bobby Petrino, who ended up starting Harrington amid the Michael Vick dog-fighting scandal. Harrington went 3-7 in 10 starts.

That team had a head coach, Bobby Petrino, who was so ill-equipped to coach an NFL team, it was laughable. If anybody challenged him, or suggested something different, the person was cast away. It was an unhealthy environment from the get-go, and it wouldn't get any better.

If nothing else, the piece is worth your time. It provides some fresh insight into Nick Saban as an NFL head coach and lends a voice to a player who was destroyed by his teammates in Detroit (Dre' Bly blamed Mariucci's firing on Harrington). The interpersonal side of the game is so seldom explored, especially with the advent of fantasy sports. Players are so often looked at as cogs in a machine instead of individuals in an environment 100 times more turbulent than high school. Perhaps we can think twice before freely associating the 'bust' label again.