Harbaugh Bowl: Jim Harbaugh Almost Played QB for Detroit Lions

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh is credited with being a member of the Detroit Lions football team. The current San Francisco 49ers head coach was signed by the Lions prior to the start of the 2001 NFL season. The team parted ways with Harbaugh before the 2001 season began and helped end Harbaugh’s NFL career.

When he was signed by the Lions, Harbaugh was considered to be the backup QB to Charlie Batch. The day before the season started, the Lions cut Harbaugh from their roster to make way for a new backup. In a trade with the Cleveland Browns, the Lions received former Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer.

Detroit gave up a fourth round pick to reunite Detmer with Lions head coach Marty Mornhinweg. Both had previously worked together in the San Francisco 49ers west coast offense. Detmer was the new backup, but also seen as a threat to Batch.

In the 2001 season, three different quarterbacks started for the Lions. None of them were any good either with a 2-14 overall record to show for the season. Batch started nine games for the Lions and threw for 2,392 yards. Batch completed 58.1 percent of his passes and finished with 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Detmer started four games and posted a completion rate of 60.9 percent. However, Detmer failed to find the endzone more than players on the other team. Detmer threw 10 interceptions, including seven in one game, versus a total of three touchdowns. Mike McMahon also started three games for the Lions.

After being released by the Lions, Harbaugh signed with the Carolina Panthers. Harbaugh dressed in six of the games, but never made it into another game. In his career, Harbaugh played in 177 NFL games. Harbaugh threw for 26,288 yards and 129 touchdowns.

Harbaugh might have been able to help the Lions in 2001, but at the time the team was worried about utilizing Mornhinweg’s west coast offense. Coincidentally, the Lions almost hired Harbaugh to be their head coach in 2009. After the horrible season, Detroit took quarterback Joey Harrington with the third overall pick to solve their qb problems. How did that one work out for them?

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