As the Lions' new senior personnel executive, James Harris' role is all-encompassing. General manager Martin Mayhew remains in charge of all football-related decisions, but Harris will help organize the team's scouting departments, he'll have input when it comes to draft-day decisions, and next year he'll be directly responsible for scouting a handful of schools (presumably those close to his home in Florida, where he'll work part of the time).
His biggest job, however, is to be a sounding board of sorts for Mayhew, a first-time GM who's smart enough to surround himself with an experienced hand he can lean on in tough times.
He's going to be a good mentor for me, Mayhew said. A lot has been made about the experience factor. This is an experienced guy, he's got 20 years in it. He's very well-respected in the National Football League. He has a good eye. You ask any scout and they'll tell you James has a really good eye. So I think it's important to have a guy like that.
Already, Mayhew said Harris sat in on the team's free-agency planning meetings this week and will be involved in discussions on what to do with quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Jon Kitna. Both men are due roster bonuses in the coming weeks $2.5 million for Culpepper, $500,000 for Kitna and Mayhew said Thursday what to do with the quarterbacks is the biggest personnel decision that we have to make this offseason.
Harris didn't get into specifics about what led to his departure from Jacksonville, but he acknowledged none of us was really expecting the way it happened. The Jaguars, popular Super Bowl picks in the preseason, finished a disappointing 5-11.
He also said he considered sitting out this season, which jives with what I heard early in the search process, that he wasn't in any rush to take a subordinate role. That was my first thought was I would just sit out, take a look at it, consider retiring, walk away from the game, said Harris, who interviewed for the general-manager job in Cleveland. I talked to Martin. It started getting interesting to me. At first it was not something I really wanted to do and then I started thinking about it and getting an opportunity to work with a guy like Martin and this organization started appealing to me and we talked and I'm here today.
Mayhew was asked if he'd be OK if Harris voiced strong opposition to his decisions as they related to, say, the No. 1 overall pick. There were any number of yes men available, and we didn't pick any of those guys, he said.
Mayhew also said Harris' arrival doesn't affect the jobs of anyone else in the front office. Sheldon White remains director of pro personnel, Scott McEwen is director of college scouting, and vice president of football operations Cedric Saunders will continue to play a bigger role in both scouting and personnel. If there are any more changes upstairs, I wouldn't expect them until after the draft.
Final note for the night on the cuts earlier this week of Leigh Bodden, Dwight Smith, Dan Campbell, Mike Furrey and Edwin Mulitalo. Mayhew said every decision that was made was about winning football games and for different reasons, some age, some injury-related, some cap-related. But each one of them was about winning football games. Nothing else there.
Labels: Cedric Saunders, Dan Campbell, Daunte Culpepper, Dwight Smith, Edwin Mulitalo, Jon Kitna, Leigh Bodden, Martin Mayhew, Mike Furrey, Scott McEwen, Shack Harris, Sheldon White