ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons hired Bobby Petrino because they thought he could turn Michael Vick into a complete quarterback. They signed Joey Harrington merely to serve as No. 7's backup.
My, how things have changed.
Harrington is now the starter by default, leaving Petrino and the Falcons without their most prominent player as they prepare to begin training camp today in suburban Flowery Branch, Ga.
How can the Falcons possibly cope with the jarring change from Vick, who last season became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards, to Harrington, a first-round bust whose career record as a starter is 23-43?
Petrino can only talk bravely about a smooth transition.
"I know Joey has been through some hard times. He's been hit a lot. But he's hung in there," the coach said.
"The thing that impresses me most is his take-charge attitude."
Vick is barred from training camp while the NFL conducts its own investigation into federal charges related to dogfighting. He wouldn't have been at the first practice anyway; his arraignment in Richmond, Va., is set for today. With no choice but to move on, Petrino quickly anointed Harrington the starter.
As for Harrington, he's done little to justify being the third overall pick in the 2002 draft. He was let go by Detroit after going 18-37 as their starting quarterback. During one year in Miami, he started 11 games but lost that job, too.
The Falcons traded highly sought backup quarterback Matt Schaub just weeks before the allegations against Vick surfaced.
The investigation began just weeks after Harrington was signed, so he's had all summer to prepare for the possibility of stepping in.
"If I do get a chance," Harrington said shortly after signing with the Falcons, "I'll be ready to help this team."
HARRINGTON'S NO LONGER A BACKUP
Joey Harrington begins the Atlanta Falcons' training camp today as their No. 1 quarterback in place of Michael Vick, who has been barred from attending by the NFL. Veteran Chris Redman and former Georgia star D.J. Shockley are battling for the backup job. Here's a look at their career numbers:
|Name||Years||Comp. Pct.||Yards||TD||INT||QB rating|
Notes: Redman last played in the NFL in 2003. In his senior season at Georgia, Shockley completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,588 yards, 24 TDs and 5 INTs.