James “Shack” Harris retires from the NFL

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The man who became the first African-American quarterback to start a regular-season opener and who went on to lead an NFL front office has ended his career in football, 46 years after entering the league through the draft.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions senior personnel advisor James “Shack” Harris has retired at age 67.

An eighth-round pick of the Bills in 1969, Harris was a Pro Bowler with the Rams in 1974, the year he led the Rams to the NFC Championship game.

He became a scout with the Buccaneers in 1987. After six years in Tampa, he became assistant G.M. with the Jets. In 1997, Harris was hired as director of pro personnel in Baltimore. From 2003 through 2008, Harris served as V.P. of player personnel in Jacksonville.

Birkett notes that Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew said last week at the Scouting Combine that Harris was instrumental in persuading the team to take defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh over Gerald McCoy with the second pick in the 2010 draft.

25 responses to “James “Shack” Harris retires from the NFL

  1. I am not sure that picking Suh over McCoy is a defining contribution. I mean, Suh might be alittle better, but he has had more ‘incidences’ also. You don’t really go wrong there. Now tell me he made the Jags draft MJD in the second round, then you have a story…

  2. Congratulations Mr. Harris, one of my school-boy idles, as a young black QB leading an integrated team in North Carolina.

    Proudly, I was the first black QB to lead an integrated 4A school, post segregation. Harris, Briscoe, Joe Gilliam and Tarkenton were my guys. The legacy is lasting.

  3. Thank you for the many years of service, and great job on that Suh recommendation! Hopefully Mayhew doesn’t have a difficult time finding somebody that can fill his shoes that can provide more high-quality scouting support in the future. They say a team can never have enough good CBs, but that sentiment holds even more true for scouting expertise.

  4. Enjoyed seeing him throw the deep ball with the Rams. He was decent, but threw a lot of picks and seemed to be hurt all of the time and that’s probably why LA moved on from him.

  5. I still remember that 99 1/2 yard drive in the 1974 NFC Championship game that ended with no points for the Rams, and was the difference in their 14-10 loss to the Vikings. Harris threw a great deep ball back in those days.

    Too bad he couldn’t stay healthy when with the Rams; I always thought the was the best of the three QBs (Harris, Jaworski, and Haden in 1976) they had. Classy man.

    Enjoy retirement, James!

  6. Please…………….

    Every African American knows what happened with Shack Harris in the Rams organization. Some of us were adults during that period and time and we know. Thank God football has evolved since then.

  7. Fourteen years before Doug Williams became a Super Bowl MVP, a black Pro Bowl QB came within two wins of taking home the Lombardi. … I wonder how many NFL fans realize that. I didn’t and I’ve been a fan since 1978–a fan whose all-time favorite QB is Steve McNair.

  8. Shack should be celebrated as a player and a person but as a Jags fan, he wasn’t a very good GM. He tied himself to Leftwich as QB and had David Gerrard as a backup even though Gerrard was a much better QB. Every one of his 1st round picks were busts except for Mercedes Lewis. Frankly he and Gene Smith who followed him are the main reason that the Jags have struggled on the field for hears ever since Coughlin left.
    Still, I hope he has a great retirement !!

  9. The 70’s…Issac Hayes’ Shaft…James Harris QB of the Rams…The fearsome foursome! No championship, but those were the days, and music was music!

  10. It was a shame how he was treated back in those days any mistake he made was magnified he came up in an era when being a black Quarterback in the NFL was like being the first black President, so much hatred for such a humble soft spoken man who came from a small college in Louisanna, who never rebeled but did his best, the pressure must have been tremendous, I lived in Calif at that time and felt so sorry for him getting booed more at home for just trying to do his best, the people on the road were kinder, they booed too, but basically because he was playing their,teamThey all blame him for that Championship lost but Ron Jaworski, whom they wanted to take his place played the whole second half, and did nothing yet they blamed Harris, I can truthful say thanks for all you have done for the NFL, and really mean it because I was a Ram Fan and pulled for James Harris to do well, Ron Jaworski, is someone I would never respect, he never brings this up because he knows it was wrong.

  11. I happy for Shack as he enters retirement. We can never give him enough credit for his groundbreaking days as a player and what he meant to black players taking leadership roles.

    But as the personnel man for my Jaguars, he had a track record that was mediocre at best and down right horrible at worst. After years of bad picks by Harris and his successor, Gene Smith, the new Jaguars’ regime is still crawling its way out of the talent hole he began digging in 2003.

    Khan, Caldwell and Bradley are doing it the right way and appear to be making much better decisions, and the jury is still out. But the fans down here have more hope now that we have for many years.

    No thanks to their predecessors.

  12. I remember him leading the nfc and ken anderson leading the afc in passer rating in 75, i believe it was. Congrats to him for progressing through the ranks and making a living doing what he loves.

  13. Turnover machine…watched every game he ever played; was not groundbreaking by any stretch, but had a cannon arm and was fun to watch play…he sucked as a personnel guy, and had no business in a job like that…

  14. as a lions fan, i would much rather have mccoy(a player that is more concerned about what he does on the field then off of it) over suh, who is great but its always about what commercial he can fit his face into, or what pointless reality tv show he can be on, or what car he can race across america, or who he can stomp on. i love the dude on the field but unfortunately he cares much more about being a celebrity then being the greatest D lineman of all time…

  15. Impressive man who oversaw the rebuilding of a pourus defense into one of the greatest defenses ever and that was the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. As director of Pro Player Personel he is responsible for S Corey Harris, S/Cb Rod Woodson, De Larry Webster, DT Tony Siragusa and DT Sam Adams. With Lewis, Boulware, Sharper and McCalister this defense set the NFL record for fewest points in a 16 game season at 168 and won a Super Bowl in the process. I don’t about anywhere else, but in Baltimore, Shack is a winner on and off the field.

  16. James Harris was one of my Hero’s growing up. As one Skawh stated it was (My Father), Ali, Isaac Hayes, Shaft, and James Harris.

    Just on the GM note, it’s very easy to spot the fan versus the player.

    There is only ONE successful GM a year, just ONE, all the rest are failures, and very few REPEAT that one year success.

    Dont hate the playa, hate the game.

    Peace Blessings and Prosperity to James Harris and his Family

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