DETROIT – Joey Harrington remains the Detroit Lions’ starting quarterback, but he could be replaced as soon as Sunday at Cleveland.

Coach Steve Mariucci didn’t make a definitive statement at his Monday news conference. At first, Mariucci said , “Today, he’s our starter for Sunday.” But then he indicated that could change.

Mariucci didn’t rule out starting Dan Orlovsky, but he also called him “a rookie and very under-practiced.” The question appears to be when veteran Jeff Garcia will be able to step in.

Garcia, who led San Francisco to the playoffs in 2001 and ’02 under Mariucci, signed in the off-season to be part of what Mariucci called the Lions’ “pitching staff.”

Garcia struggled in the exhibition season – going 22-for-43 for 218 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions, for a rating of 44.5 – and suffered a fractured left fibula and sprained left ankle in the exhibition finale Sept. 2 at Buffalo.

Mariucci said Garcia had been cleared to practice and play this week if his leg felt well enough. But Garcia likes to use his legs almost as much as his arm, and he told WXYT-AM that he wasn’t “anywhere close to 100 percent” and didn’t know if he would ready.

“If I’m not healthy, then I’m not as mobile as I have been in the past, and that’s something that I feel in order for me to be effective and to feel confident in my own self, I need to have that with me,” Garcia told WXYT.

“Again, we’ll just see how that materializes throughout the week as far as my health is concerned.”

The Lions have the third-worst offense in the NFL, averaging 237.8 yards per game.

Harrington isn’t the only one to blame – his line has struggled, his receivers have been a disappointment in more ways than one, the running game hasn’t gotten going – and even Garcia says just benching Harrington won’t fix everything.

“Maybe a changeup can be good in certain ways,” Garcia told WXYT. “But everybody on the offense needs to understand and needs to get what they need to do in order for this offense to succeed.”

But right guard Damien Woody said maybe a change had to be made, because “clearly something’s not right,” and historically teams changed quarterbacks in this situation.

Harrington has the worst rating in the league, 55.6, among quarterbacks with at least 49 pass attempts . He is completing only 53.1 percent of his passes, and has four touchdowns against eight interceptions.

Harrington seems to have little support inside and outside the team. He was booed during Sunday’s 21-20 loss to Carolina at Ford Field, and at the end, fans chanted, “Joey sucks!” Teammates have yelled at him on the field and the sideline.

Told the players seemed united in their contempt for the quarterback, Mariucci didn’t completely refute it, saying, “I don’t know if that’s 100 percent true. I think they’re frustrated in our record. They’re frustrated in being close but no cigar.”

. . . They’re just tired of it. We all are. We’re all looking for reasons, then we look for solutions.”

Harrington said some teammates had approached him with kind words Sunday and Monday, and he refused to give up.

“I’m going to fight for my job like nothing else, and that’s what I’ve always done,” said Harrington, the third pick in the 2002 draft, who has a 16-33 record as a starter. “That’s what I’ve done since the second I’ve been here. . . .

“I’m not going to quit. That’s not how I was raised. You’re going to have to drag me out of this, because I’m focused on winning football games for this team, and I’m not going to quit on them.”


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