Chicago Bears Top 100: #79 Walt Harris

We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off.  Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears.  It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.

The Bears drafted Walt Harris 13th overall in the 1996 draft. Harris was a 4-year starter at Mississippi state and was an all-SEC selection three years in a row. It didn’t take long for Harris to make an impact with the Bears, by week 4 he had beat out James Burton and Kevin Miniefield for the starting CB position across from Donnell Woolford. As a rookie Harris finished 2nd on the team in tackles behind Marty Carter with 98 total stops. Harris also had 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. It was a pretty good start to his career from a run stopping perspective, and while he struggled in coverage he showed signs of becoming a solid corner.

In Harris’ second year he solidified his starting spot with 83 tackles, 5 INTs, and 4 forced fumbles. With Woolford no longer on the Bears, Harris was the clear-cut #1 corner on the team. Unfortunately the Bears were a terrible 4-12 squad that season. Harris had a solid 3rd season as well with 4 interceptions, 69 tackles, a forced fumble and a TD return (INT), but the Bears struggled again finishing 4-12 for the 2nd straight year.

Despite all the promise Harris showed in his first three seasons, his numbers declined steadily from that point on. After intercepting 9 passes during his 2nd-3rd seasons, Harris never had more than 2 per season in his next 3 seasons with the Bears. He continued to struggle with pump-fakes and double-moves and his tackles numbers also declined from an average of 80 per year across his first 4 season to an average of 46 his final two seasons with the Bears.

Harris was a great fit for Dave Wannstedt’s defense and he played at a borderline Pro Bowl level for three seasons before Dick Jauron took over as head coach. Jauron and new DC Greg Blache implemented a new defensive philosophy that wasn’t a great fit for Harris and his aggressive nature. After a couple unproductive seasons with the Bears (00-01), Harris signed with the Redskins. Harris struggled with the Redskins as well (02-03) before going to the Niners in 2004. San Fran ran a similar defensive scheme to what the Bears ran under Wannstedt and Harris again excelled. In his first year with the 49ers, Harris had 8 INTs, 4 FFs, and made the Pro Bowl. Harris had two more solid seasons with the Niners (7 INTs) before retiring after the 2008 season.

This ranking was difficult for me because I ripped on Walt “double-pump” Harris more than almost any other Bear during his time with the team, but these rankings were a consensus among multiple people on the BGO staff so I took one for the team. For the record Harris would have been ranked 1,432nd in my all-time Bear rankings.

What do you think of the ranking?  Too high?  Too low?  I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself.  We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.

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