FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J.- Having played for the New York Giants, appeared on National Football League play-by-play broadcasts, and filled-in at New York’s WFAN (the original sports talk radio station), it’s obvious that Phil Simms knows a thing or two about the game of football. In Part Three of my four segment series, Mr. Simms and I focused on analyzing the NFL’s trending topics, the NFL’s quarterbacks, the intricacies of the New York football scene, and Colin Kaepernick’s employment struggles.
NFL’s Trending topics
To tackle the top four trending topics in the NFL, Simms and I completed a ‘big deal or not-a-big deal?’ segment.
- Simms on New York Jets’ second year quarterback Christian Hackenberg not getting any first team snaps all last season (even in practice): “I’ll say big deal. I think late in the year, I would have started trying to groom him to give him a really good chance to be much more competitive, even in the off-season training camp, to maybe be ‘The Guy’ this year”.
- Simms on New York Giants’ superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. not attending voluntary Organized Team Activities (OTAs): “Really, really, really not a big deal….It means nothing to me. Look: he’s going to be in great shape, I know he works out hard. He’s doing some work with Cris Carter, who, I think, knows a lot about playing wide receiver.”
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Simms continued to say that “Odell Beckham, Jr. is one of the most famous players in the league, he’s one of the best players in the league, and it’ll be interesting to see how this ends up. Is it about money? Is it about just not being there? We’ll find out. George Young, who was my general manager, had a great saying that everybody uses now: ‘It’s always about the money’. So, we’ll see. He’s a lightning rod.”
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“He’s terrific, he’s got talent, he’s got a personality. I mean, he’s got a different look. Everything about him. He’s out there and he brings the attention to himself.” Would Simms want Beckham on his team? ” I’ll tell you what: he can being all the attention to himself he wants, if I was his quarterback, I’d still be happy because he can make a lot of good plays”.
- Simms on the Raiders’ relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas: “I think I’m excited about the move to Las Vegas. The Oakland Raider fans are all across the country, but… look: the stadium? There are so many issues that go on out there. We’ll see if it works in Las Vegas….I’m an optimist. I always think everything’s going to work. I think the move to Las Vegas is going to be big for them. I think it could end up being a really good move for the NFL.”
- Simms on the NFL loosening the rules on touchdown celebrations: He didn’t even allow me to finish my question! “I’m so excited, I dont know if I could have watched any games. God, I need to see more celebrations!…I’m being very sarcastic. It’s amazing, the attention [about allowing] them to celebrate a little bit more….I’m certain they’ve got parameters to this one, too. They look at: if that’s what’s going to draw more attention to the game. In today’s day and age, it probably will. I’m sure they’ll be a segment every week on all the sports shows: ‘Hey who had the best celebration?’! And, you know, the game is pretty good. It’s more than pretty good as proven by the attendance, by ratings on TV, and is this going to bring more people to watch the game? I can’t imagine but, you never know.” When I told Simms that I liked the rule, he enthusiastically replied: “Of course you do- you’re young!” Clarifying, he said: “I don’t mind anything about celebrations. It’s okay, but the thing is: now it’s going to become such an issue…: the commentators are going to talk about it: ‘Let’s rate the best 5 of the year- you know, come on…” When I asked if the new rule would take away from the game? Simms responded: “Not really. As long as the celebrations are done right, that’s fine….But there will still be flags thrown because players are…going to push it to the edge”.
The best two quarterbacks in the NFL are: New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady and Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Simms, the longest-tenured New York Giants quarterback, agrees: “Tom Brady is one, the second one’s easy: it’s Aaron Rodgers…”
Who is the third best quarterback in the league? That is open to interpretation. When I asked Simms, he replied: “Then…it becomes a little muddled, but.. there [are] so many good throwers and quarterbacks in the league now…. Ben Roethlisberger is, I think, just a guy that goes unnoticed by a lot of people. He’s a terrific thrower, really knows how to play the position…. If you pick those three, they could put up a good argument against anybody”.
I had Drew Brees and Matt Ryan sharing the third slot on my depth chart. Simms replied: “They’re different kind of players…what I call really ‘quarterbacks’: they know how to manipulate players, they know how to lead their team, and of course, they have athletic ability, there’s no question about that….” Pensively, he added “I’ll tell you another one: Matthew Stafford is really under-rated with all [the Lions’] comeback victories”.
When it comes down to it, “who has the best arm in the NFL…when it comes to accuracy and really throwing the ball hard and doing all those things? I would probably say Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford are maybe the first two” Simms added.
The New York Quarterback Scene
In New York, the Giants have had, historically, the quarterback depth chart with the least amount of erasers. After discussing the top quarterbacks around the NFL (Brady, Rodgers, Ryan, Brees, Stafford), when I asked Simms if Eli Manning is, in fact, “Elite”, he replied: “Look, Eli Manning’s been a terrific quarterback, probably going to go to the Hall of Fame. He’s won two Super Bowls, two Super Bowl MVPs, so [he has had] a long career. I’ll tell you what is amazing, because I’ve played the position: the fact that he hasn’t been hurt [and] has never really missed any time at all is really unbelieveable…It’s really incredible.” Knock on wood, Giants fans.
Manning’s injury-less streak is probably attributed to a shift in the way quarterbacks are coached. “That’s really how the league is now: they don’t teach you to stand in there and make the throw, its: ‘throw the ball, do not get hit’….When you see a space, move to it [to] buy a little extra time [then] throw the ball….[It’s a] very important [concept], almost a must if you want to succeed as a quarterback in the league.” Simms practices what he preaches. In fact, in the morning segment of camp that day, the young quarterbacks were practicing that technique/mentality at length.
The Jets are entering yet another season with their perpetual quarterback controversy. They replaced journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with another journeyman quarterback: Josh McCown. The same two young quarterbacks (Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg) that sat behind Fitzpatrick will sit behind McCown.
I asked Simms who will get the starting job for the Jets this season. His response: “It’ll be hard for any of them to beat McCown out, just because he’s got so much experience…[but] maybe somebody lights it up during training camp. If Hackenberg or Petty has a tremendous training camp and you just can’t deny him the job, then [he] would probably start, but that would be tough…. Josh McCown is a good athlete, [has] been in the league a long time, [but is] not as athletic and powerful as he was 5 years ago, of course. But still, he knows how to play the position and look, it’s all set up, no matter what the Jets do, sooner or later, they’ve got to play the young quarterback to see if they have ‘That Guy’ on their roster, so that’s the big deal…” (After comparing the draft order between Hackenberg and Petty), Simms continued: “I think they would like Hackenberg be ‘That Guy’, because that’s how it goes: they drafted him [in the] second round [with] a little controversy surrounding it. We didn’t see him last year, when the season [was] ‘over’, the opportunity [was] there to play him and they didn’t, which, I thought, had bad optics and kind of raised everybody’s eyebrows.”
What about Colin Kaepernick?
I lead with the question: Is Colin Kaepernick ‘good enough’ to play in the NFL? That’s all I needed. Simms clearly has a strong opinion on Kaepernick’s play and his ideals. Emphatically, he responded: “Is he good enough to play in the NFL? Of course he is! That’s one of his problems! Of course, we know his problem of kneeling during the national anthem, so I know that’s a big reason that he’s not on a team now. But really, another part is his talent. He’s going to walk out on the field and almost any team he goes to, every player is going to [say]: ‘Hey, he’s really good. he can move around. He’s big. He’s tall. Hey, he can really throw it’. So, if he comes in, it unsettles your little ‘quarterback rotation that we have’. ‘We’ve got a good quarterback’, (all these things that I hate to hear), ‘oh our quarterback chemistry’…. Every team thinks they have their franchise guy right now. The Jets, may be the only one. Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor, I think has played well …. But most teams have ‘their guy’. They don’t want Colin Kaepernick coming in there [and] upsetting the apple cart. And, he would do it two ways: one with the controversy he brings and also the fact that he’s very talented. I’ve watched him many times in person. I sit there and go ‘wow’ and, I’ve seen them all. So, it’ll be interesting.”
Clearly, Simms thinks Kaepernick deserves another shot in the NFL, who may or may not be blackballing him due to his kneeling during the national anthem. He offered a solution to me: “I hope somebody gives him a chance. I wish he’d come out and talk for himself, state his case to the world, to the football fans, and maybe [to] the owners. Maybe that would change their minds, but I haven’t heard anything from him.”
He continued: “What was your original question: ‘is he talented enough?’ Let me say it one more time: ABSOLUTELY.”
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