FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J.- “With the 7th pick in the 1979 NFL Draft, the New York Giants select… Phil Simms, quarterback, Moorehead State”. A young man, born and raised in Kentucky, America’s heartland, was thrust under the bright lights of New York City, the city that never sleeps. At 24 years old, Phil Simms became the starting quarterback of the New York Giants. He told me: “I had never been on a plane before in my life…. I had probably only been out of the state of Kentucky to go to…Tennessee [and] maybe a little across the border in Indiana… I [just looked] at [New York] and [said]: ‘ohmigosh’….I think it exceeds your expectations about how big it is.”
Simms embraced New York and the relationship was reciprocal: “Everybody always says these things about pressure and playing in NY and all that, and I didn’t ever feel it…. When I came here, I loved it. I liked the people. It felt good.” Two Super Bowl championships and a Professional Football Hall-of-Fame career later, Simms is still embracing life in the New York Metropolitan area by hosting a youth quarterback and wide receiver academy in Franklin Lakes.
Where did we start? Simms and I had some fun talking about his former Super Bowl winning teammates (and Coach Bill Parcells) in a speed-round.
Bill Parcells: “Great sense of humor, very cutting. Very honest, so when you didn’t play well, he didn’t sugarcoat it. Once you get used to a situation like that, that’s what’s great because honesty is always the best policy in everything and he had a lot of it”.
Mark Bavaro: “unbelievable hands if he doesn’t get hurt. He was a Hall of Fame tight end and he really was so good at catching the football in a crowd, that he created routes that we see to this day by receivers: slot receivers, wide receivers… Mark Bavaro really started the trend”.
Harry Carson: “The first time I ever got under center as a New York Giant, I looked across from me about three yards and said ‘Oh My Gosh, he’s a linebacker?!’ because he was the biggest human being I’d ever seen at linebacker…. To be that big and athletic, and, of course, Harry’s a great guy, lives in town here, and a Hall of Famer”.
Lawrence Taylor: “Unique guy, we know all that. I consider him a good friend and, you know, as we really got rollin’ with the Giants, him and I had a good relationship. I tell pepole this and they always find it strange…. We had a lot of things that we were a lot alike. When I threw a touchdown pass or we scored, I don’t know if it was every time, but it was 95% of the time, the first guy on the field to hug me, to give me five or do anything was always Lawrence Taylor.”
1993: Life after the Giants?
Loyalty to a team, especially in the contemporary National Football League, is as rare as finding Moby Dick. Does it really even exist? Phil Simms played all 15 years of his career with the Giants. To my knowledge, he was the longest tenured quarterback in Giants’ history. Eli Manning, in August of 2017, will be embarking on his fourteenth season (all with the Giants). So, when a beloved Simms and the Giants parted ways, many fans wondered: what’s next? I asked Simms if he had considered signing with another team after his time in New York was up. He responded: “I did think about it…. When the Giants let me go, I had a few teams offer me right away. The only thing, and this is terrible to say, that enticed me was the fact that those teams were willing to pay me a lot more than I ever got paid in the 15 years I played [with the Giants]. Money is always a part of it, but as I told my wife,
I said: (I’m not going to tell you the teams, I almost did!): ‘so-and-so team wants me to come down there and do this’.
She said: ‘Oh that’ll be great!’
I said: ‘Oh, you wouldn’t mind moving down there?’
She said ‘ oh no, we’re not moving, we’ll come and visit you on weekends.’
I just went: ‘oh, well that’s not going to work.’… My son Christopher was in the 8th grade, so, I had to be here and stay here. This is where we live”.
The Legacy Continues
Simms’ Super Bowl Giants created many traditions that are still present in professional sports today. Dumping the Gatorade cooler on your coach after a big win? These Giants were the first to do it. “I do kind of know how the dumping the Gatorade on Bill Parcells started. I don’t know if it was a celebration, or we were mad at him. I’m not sure. Not me, I didn’t do the dumping, ever! But it turned into a funny thing that’s still done and it’s pretty cool.”
And “going to Disney World” after a championship victory? Simms was the man who started that! “Yeah, that’s pretty cool to be the first guy to ever say that…. Nowadays, things like that are nothing, but back then, I thought: ‘This is so unusual, I don’t know if I can do this’, but I’m glad I did it.”
Perhaps the most iconic aspect of “those Giants” were their simple, classic uniforms. This past season, the current Giants donned the best NFL Color Rush uniforms. Why? They were an ode to the uniforms of the Simms era. I talked with Giants equipment director Joseph Skiba about the one-of-a-kind story behind the development of the 2016-2017 Color Rush uniforms. My exclusive story was featured on WFAN’s Giants pregame show that Thursday night. I asked Simms what he though of the Giants’ contemporary-retro look. He said: “I didn’t like it. I loved it. I liked the ‘Giants’ name across the helmet. That’s what I like. I like that color blue and everything…. When they did…that, their uniforms were awesome. They really were. I loved just the whole look: the colors and all that because those color rush uniforms, most of the time, to me, they’re a disaster, but the Giants’ was pretty good.
Speaking of disasters, it made me think of the New York Jets’ kelly green and Buffalo Bills’ electric red uniforms that caused fits for color-blind viewers. Simms animatedly told me: “I was sitting in the booth and it was giving me a headache! And I’m not exaggerating: there was a glow coming off the uniforms where you had to refocus your eyes. It was terrible!”.
New York Giants in the Professional Football Hall of Fame
With Simms at the helm, the New York Giants, especially during the late eighties and the early nineties, achieved greatness. Consistently great teams, have consistently great players, like the Giants. Currently the only two players enshrined in Canton from that era are Harry Carson and Lawrence Taylor. When I asked Simms who he thought would be next, including himself, he replied: “Oh gosh, I’ve never really thought about it like that. I think O.J. Anderson was a borderline Hall of Famer. I don’t mean ‘borderline’, I mean some of the guys that get in… I just go: ‘well OJ should deserve to be in there also’. But I haven’t thought of it like that. Who else was on the team? You know, it’s really interesting: you talk about such a great run that we had in all those years and we only had two Hall of Famers… Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson were the only two. I mean, we had teams that lead the league, especially on defense many times and you would think there would be more Hall of Famers”. Simms, as well, may be a compelling player to have the honor of wearing the Gold Jacket.
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