A LIONS QB ERA ENDS: SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

He may be in Thailand, he may be in Oregon, but wherever Joey Harrington is, he can take a hint.

It’s over.

Hey, for all we know, Harrington gave the hint. For all anyone knows – and the Lions and Harrington have been exceedingly silent in this quickie divorce – it was Joey who wanted out, it was Joey who said “go find someone else,” which the Lions did as fast and as furiously as a newcomer to the Atkins diet who gets told, “Eat all the bacon you want.”

Jon Kitna on Tuesday.

Josh McCown on Thursday.

It’s Friday. Anyone else want to play quarterback for the Lions?

They unofficially have five on the roster now. This goes with four or more potential starting receivers, now that they signed Corey Bradford. I’ll tell you this. For a team with a lousy passing game, they sure have a lot of bodies.

Of course, they will soon have one less. At some point, Harrington officially will be gone – cut, traded, whatever. And while it may be the best thing for him and the Lions, it is still a shame.

Harrington didn’t play stellar football in Detroit, but he had his moments, and he held his head high through a mudstorm of criticism, from fans, from media, even from teammates. He truly wanted to be successful here. But in four years, he endured three head coaches, several position coaches, a rotating running game, a mediocre line, Dre’ Bly’s criticism, and a group of receivers straight out of Romper Room.

People booed him. And at times, he played badly. But I promise you, when he goes someplace else, someone will write: “Harrington is a former first-round pick with tremendous talent who endured bad coaching and a lousy team; he could be a star here in (fill in new city).”

There’s nothing like a new quarterback.

Even if it’s someone else’s old quarterback.

How did the Lions help themselves?

Which brings us to the latest acquisition, Josh McCown? He is basically a Kmart knockoff of Harrington. They were both drafted in 2002. Harrington went in the first round, McCown in the third. Harrington started as a rookie. McCown didn’t start until his second year. Both were benched, at some point, for older veterans. Both have talent. Both have made mistakes that leave coaches pulling their hair out. And neither has been to a playoff game.

Josh is in, Joey’s out.

You tell me. If this is a big improvement, I must be missing something.

More likely, it’s a change for change’s sake. Sometimes, you reach the end in a relationship, and if all you do is change partners, it still feels like progress.

The Lions are changing partners.

Heck. They’re doing Extreme Home Makeover.

Will Harrington get the last laugh?

But know this: We already are set up for a quarterback controversy. Neither Kitna nor McCown is an obvious starter. Some will champion McCown’s youth. Some will champion Kitna’s experience.

But when you have two starting quarterbacks, you don’t have any.

I spoke with an Arizona football writer Thursday who told me McCown had a lot of ability but needed to grow up as a quarterback. He called McCown a good soldier when he was benched for Shaun King (the Lions have him, too) and later Kurt Warner. He said McCown was a good guy.

All that can be said of Harrington.

But Joey’s old and Josh is new. And the merry-go-round continues to spin.

Personally, I think we should wait until Harrington speaks before deciding who really wanted out of this relationship. But there is no denying it’s over. And it wouldn’t surprise me if, when Joey pulls out of town, he looks back at his two replacements, shrugs, and makes like George Clooney:

Good night, and good luck.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays and “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR-AM (760). To read recent columns, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

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