ALLEN PARK - Joey Harrington is emerging as the most likely starting quarterback for the Lions' game Sunday at Dallas, but coach Steve Mariucci wasn't ready to make any pronouncements Thursday.
Perhaps he is holding out hope that Jeff Garcia will be healthy enough to reclaim the job, or perhaps he just wants to keep coach Bill Parcells and the Cowboys guessing. But Mariucci was keeping his thoughts to himself.
Harrington and Garcia got pretty close to a 50-50 split in the practice reps Wednesday, and Garcia said he was feeling less discomfort in his left fibula, which was broken Sept. 2. But when the team returned to work Thursday, Harrington got the majority of snaps and Garcia got more time to rest and watch.
"He is not completely back yet, (not) completely healthy," Mariucci said. "He is getting better, but he is not quite there yet."
That being the case, Mariucci was asked why he didn't just name Harrington the starter.
"Because I don't want to yet," he said.
Although Harrington is coming off one of the best games in his four-year NFL career, Mariucci obviously feels that Garcia gives him a better chance of winning, perhaps because of his ability to keep a play alive with his legs and his familiarity with the West Coast offense.
In the two games Garcia played before leaving the lineup with pain in his left leg, he completed 65.2 percent of his 69 throws. However, he didn't throw a touchdown pass against either Cleveland or Chicago, and the Bears returned an interception for a touchdown to beat the Lions in overtime Oct. 20.
Harrington, despite his 21 runs for 64 yards, is primarily a pocket passer. And -- considering the Lions' inability to protect the quarterback -- that might be a concern for Mariucci going into the game against a good Dallas defense.
Mariucci said he doesn't believe it is detrimental to the Lions not to know until late in the week whether they will be playing with Harrington or Garcia.
"No, not really," he said. "But you are right, they are different styles. If one is playing better than the other, there are only a handful of plays that would really be dialed up differently in the game.
"We are going to run the same set of game plans, and we might do a little bit more of something with Jeff versus Joey, but it is not that much different."
SERIES HISTORY: 18th regular-season meeting between the Lions and Cowboys, with Dallas holding a 9-8 edge. The teams are 1-1 in playoff meetings. This is the second consecutive year they will meet in Texas Stadium. The Cowboys won last year's game, 31-21.