Joey Harrington Comments on NFL Career, Being Labeled as a Bust

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2015

New Orleans Saints quarterback Joey Harrington (3) stretches at the club's football training camp in  Metairie, La., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)
Bill Haber/Associated Press

Former Oregon and NFL quarterback Joey Harrington wrote about his playing days in an article for the Cauldron, noting that he felt his professional career was a "rousing success" despite many labeling him as a "bust" throughout it.

In the article, the No. 3 pick in the 2002 NFL draft admitted that his top goal growing up was to play in the Rose Bowl.

He wrote, "Making that game was always my biggest football ambition. Not to improve my draft stock, not to be a pro football Hall of Famer. Play college football, go to the Rose Bowl, set myself up for success and life, and have fun. That was it."

Despite never reaching that game, Harrington wrote fondly of his time with the program and felt his years there and the team he was a part of helped build Oregon's reputation nationally. 

His experience at the professional level was far less enjoyable. He recounted one exchange with Detroit Lions head coach Steve Mariucci after his confidence was shot in Detroit's system:

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.

Harrington would go on to spend time with Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans in his career after leaving Detroit, describing Jason Garrett and Mike Mularkey in Miami as his favorite coaches.

"Jason and Mike understood life in ways a lot of people don’t," he wrote. "They grasped the importance of putting in work on the football field, but they also understood where football fell on the totem pole of life. What they had was perspective. Looking back, I see it as one of the greatest gifts football has given me."

Harrington added, however, that once he realized he wasn't defined by football and put more personal emphasis on the person he was off the field, his motivation to be great waned somewhat. 

"To me, my career was a huge success. Not so much because of what I achieved or didn’t achieve, but in how it set me up for the rest of my life. In my mind, the only time you can view someone’s football career as a failure is if they didn’t use their success as a platform to better the world around them."

He would go on to start the Harrington Family Foundation, which helps kids get scholarships and network with important people in their potential fields to set them up for successful futures. He's also prioritized being there for his family, something he feels is far more important than whatever success he may or may not have had on the field.

Harrington threw for 14,693 yards, 79 touchdowns and 85 interceptions in his professional career.