But when asked Thursday about his preference of Johnson as his starter, Phillips huffed a weary sigh. "Look, I've been making decisions like this for 25 years," he said. "It's not like I'm back there just flipping some coin. It was nothing personal with Doug. I mean, if it we're talking personal, I'd want Doug as my son."
Colts Wideout on a Roll
Harrison Finally Getting His Due
Late in the second quarter of the Colts' 30-18 win over the Lions, Detroit cornerback Bryant West-brook had a few words for Indianapolis All-Pro wide receiver Marvin Harrison. "He told me, 'I don't know what you're doing, but we need to stop you,' " Harrison said after helping his team improve to 6-2. "I told him just because I was having a big day against them, he shouldn't think that it hasn't happened to other people this year."
Harrison has been terrorizing defensive backs, surpassing the 100-yard receiving mark in seven of eight games this year and 11 of 13 dating back to 1999. After catching nine passes for 109 yards against the Lions, he has 962 receiving yards this season. At that pace, he'll finish with 1,924 yards, breaking Jerry Rice's record of 1,848, set in 1995.
The Lions took a conservative approach against Harrison. Westbrook, Detroit's best cover cornerback, usually played seven to eight yards off the line, hoping to prevent the big play. (Four of Harrison's seven touchdown grabs have been 50 yards or longer.) As a result, Harrison did most of his damage with short receptions, notably a catch late in the first half with the Colts facing a third-and-10 from their own 41.
With Westbrook and free safety Kurt Schulz providing double coverage, Harrison split the defenders and turned a short pass from Peyton Manning into a 29-yard gain. Six plays later Manning hit tight end Ken Dilger with a 12-yard scoring pass to make the score 23-0. "You're not supposed to make that catch against that defense," Manning said, "but Marvin made the play."
"He's the only receiver I've seen who comes out of his breaks at full speed," Westbrook says. "All his routes look the same. If he's running a go route, it looks like his curl route. His speed and control are great."
Harrison earned his first Pro Bowl invitation last season after catching 115 passes for 1,663 yards. In his eyes, however, he has been Pro Bowl-caliber since he entered the league as the 19th choice in the 1996 draft, which included receivers such as the Bucs' Keyshawn Johnson (the No. 1 pick), the Patriots' Terry Glenn (No. 7) and the Bills' Eric Moulds (No. 24). Harrison has more career receptions (369), yardage (5,103) and touchdowns (40) than any of those three.
"I've been doing the same things as everyone else, both when I was in college [at Syracuse] and in the NFL, but I've never gotten the notice," says Harrison, who admits that at the Pro Bowl older receivers like the Jaguars' Jimmy Smith and the Vikings' Cris Carter did sing his praises. "I just keep doing the job day in and day out. Maybe things will change when I start showing up in commercials."
Those within the Colts organization cite Harrison's work ethic as the major reason he has become a star. ("He does the most to get the maximum out of an extremely talented body," says team president Bill Polian.) Harrison prefers to spread the credit. He points first to Manning, with whom he has spent the last two off-seasons perfecting pass routes and other fine points of the aerial game. On their three-yard touchdown hookup on a third-and-goal with 6:26 to go in the second quarter against Detroit, Manning read the defense and flashed a hand signal to Harrison right before throwing a fade route.