FLOWERY BRANCH - It's become a familiar tune for Joey Harrington.
He's named the starting quarterback. He loses the job.
This week, the Atlanta Falcons became the third NFL team in three seasons to bench Harrington.
'This isn't going to shake me,' Harrington said Thursday. 'Does it hurt? Yeah, a lot, but it by no means is going to tear me down to the point where I can't do what's right for this team.'
Byron Leftwich will start Sunday when Atlanta (1-5) visits New Orleans (1-4), but Harrington still believes he could help turn the Falcons' season around if given another chance.
For now, his only consolation is knowing he endured similar situations in Detroit and Miami.
'Is it tough? Yeah. It's awful,' Harrington said. 'It's terrible. Every week I sit here and I pour every ounce of effort I have into this team. And to be sitting here at 1-5 and now to be replaced is a difficult thing to deal with, but it's something I've dealt with before.'
First-year Atlanta coach Bobby Petrino made his decision after the Falcons failed to score off three turnovers in a Monday night loss to the New York Giants.
Petrino met individually with Harrington on Wednesday morning. He called Leftwich into his office shortly thereafter.
Despite a career record of 24-48 with the Lions, Dolphins and Falcons, Harrington was stunned by the news.
'Absolutely I'm disappointed,' he said. 'I think I'm allowed to disagree. That's fair in this situation.'
Atlanta's offense has lacked an identity since the NFL indefinitely suspended Michael Vick indefinitely dogfighting. The disgraced quarterback is expected to begin a federal prison term after he's sentenced Dec. 10.
Petrino immediately named Harrington his No. 1 quarterback after Vick's indictment, but the Falcons' horrible start caused the coach to promote Leftwich, who went 24-20 the last four years with Jacksonville.
'One thing about playing quarterback is that a lot of times when things aren't going good, all 11 guys on the field play a part into it,' Petrino said, 'but you know in this business that the quarterback is the one you make a change with.'
Drafted third overall by Detroit in 2002, Harrington has thrown 76 touchdowns and 81 interceptions in the NFL, but he's rarely had strong protection in the pocket.
Playing behind an offensive line that lost left tackle Wayne Gandy to a season-ending injury and right tackle Todd Weiner for the next two to five weeks, Harrington has been sacked 21 times. Only Detroit's Jon Kitna, with 25, has more.
Harrington accepts blame for sometimes holding the ball too long, but he also believes it's only fair to consider personnel issues as well.
'Yes, sir, which is why I haven't lost any confidence in my abilities,' Harrington said. 'In fact, it's like I feel like I said when I came in here. This is the most confident I've been with myself at any time in the NFL. I'm going to be ready for this team.'
Another problem with Atlanta's offense is an inconsistent running game. The Falcons led the NFL in rushing the last three years, but the absence of Vick and the declining production of Warrick Dunn has compromised the offense.
But even Harrington agrees that the every aspect of the offense was sluggish in the second halves of losses the last two weeks to New York and Tennessee.
'Right now my role is to be the backup and to be ready if I'm called upon,' he said. 'If I was to create a stink and throw the towel in I wouldn't be doing my job for this team and I might miss an opportunity to get back on the field. The reality is you're one play from being in there.'
SideBar: Falcons at Saints
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: New Orleans