The Ottawa quarterback has struggled to earn respect as a big-game player, even though he has only has one playoff start to his name. He'll get another chance to prove he can win in the playoffs when the Redblacks set to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division final Sunday afternoon at TD Place, though he expects even a trip to the Grey Cup won't stop the questions from coming.
"After the game sometimes it's one of those things where you say, 'I wonder what they're going to say now?''' Harris said Wednesday. "You know there's always a next step. If we win this one, it will be can he win the Grey Cup? If you win the Grey Cup, can he do it twice?
"It's always going to be something to answer and that's great, that's the beauty of sports and that's why you play sports, but to say that it drives me would be a lie.''
The criticism is somewhat strange considering the 32-year-old is in just his second full season as a starter, and the playoff game on his resume is a 31-20 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the East semifinal last season.
"I don't know why he's gotten that tag, but I think it's a little unfair and biased,'' Redblacks offensive co-ordinator, Jamie Elizondo said. "I also think that sometimes in our society people pick up things and roll with it whether it's accurate or inaccurate. All that said, this game is not going to define him or his career and I think that's really important for everybody to remember.''
Harris is coming off an impressive season where he established career highs in completions, attempts and passing yards. In 17 games, Harris was 431-for-615 for 5116 yards and 22 touchdowns, with 11 interceptions.
"They talk about him being hot and cold and he's one of the most consistent quarterbacks, not just this year, but over his career so that's a label that as teammates we don't agree with at all,'' said Ottawa receiver Brad Sinopoli. "People are going to say things and talk about stuff you can't control. The more we talk about it the worse off we are I think. We don't agree with it so we just disprove people through how we play and that's all we can do.''
Preparation, both mentally and physically, has been key for Harris.
"I don't think I'm physically as gifted as Michael Vick or anything like that,'' Harris said with a laugh. "When I come out here I rely on my preparation, my timing, my anticipation, my accuracy and if I can be consistent in those, and I think I've been pretty consistent this year with those, I just need to make sure we're putting the ball in the end zone and not kicking field goals.''
Despite his solid performance Harris was overlooked as the East's candidate for the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award. Hamilton counterpart Jeremiah Masoli got the nod instead.
Masoli was 378-for-572 for 5209 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 18 interceptions.
Harris has gotten the better of Masoli in head-to-head battles this season. The Redblacks won all three regular-season games, most notably sweeping back-to-back meetings late in the season to finish first in the East and earn the bye to the division final.
Harris didn't throw an interception in 97 passes against Hamilton this season, while Masoli was picked off four times in 120 passes.
"There's a growth in (Harris),'' Elizondo said. "I think that comes from maturity and a comfort level in yourself as a player, as an athlete and an internal confidence that no one can give to you. It's something that comes from preparation, hard work and a huge portion of it is the mental part of the game. It's been fun watching him grow, not only as a player and what he can do on the field, but as a man too.''
Harris is playing out a one-year contract with the Redblacks, and his success or failure this weekend will likely impact his future with a wealth of potential talent at quarterback when free agency begins next year.