The Chargers released Harrison on Feb. 27, 2003. Less than two months later, A.J. Smith took over as general manager and went about the unenviable task of trying to find a replacement.
More than seven years later, the Chargers are still looking.
Smith is a shrewd evaluator of talent, but for the life of him he cannot mend a safety position that has cost the Chargers big money and big chunks of yardage over the last seven seasons.
Smith has tried every avenue for fixing the hole in the middle of his defensive backfield. He signed free agents such as Kwame Lassiter (2003), Bhawoh Jue (2005) and Marlon McCree (2006); none of them worked.
Smith also turned to the draft, picking Terrence Kiel (2003), Hanik Milligan (2003), Eric Weddle (2007) and Kevin Ellison (2009). Just one of those players has earned a Pro Bowl invite -- Milligan was voted to the all-star game as a special-teamer after the 2005 season, only to be released months later.
Harrison, by comparison, played in two Pro Bowls and was twice named first-team All Pro. He is also a two-time Super Bowl champion, winning both of his rings with the New England Patriots after leaving San Diego.
Darrell Stuckey is the latest in a long line of defenders looking to emerge as the "next Rodney Harrison." The Chargers coaches believe he is talented enough.
"Stuckey is a very active player," Norv Turner said. "He is an outstanding tackler and he runs extremely well. He'll give us a good mix and he's a good cover guy."
Stuckey is versatile enough to play either safety position, but the Chargers will start him at the strong-safety spot once occupied by Harrison. Stuckey's main competition will be second-year defender Kevin Ellison, a '09 draft pick who's in danger of being replaced already.
It's a viscous cycle that has spun since Harrison's departure: No strong safety has been strong or safe ever since.
Barring injuries, every member of this year's draft class figures to make the final 53-man roster. That has happened on just two other occasions during the A.J. Smith era (2003 and 2007).
The draft pick in the most danger is seventh-rounder Dedrick Epps. The tight end out of Miami will be pushed hard by undrafted rookies Richard Brockel (Boise State) and Dajleon Farr (Memphis) for the No. 3 spot behind Antonio Gates and Kris Wilson.
Can Stuckey break the curse of Rodney Harrison? Discuss in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.