Our football-history IQ stinks. Bob Waterfield (right) is in the Hall of Fame (he went in with the third class, in 1965), so when his name comes up today, you think, Hey, Hall-of-Fame player, and you give him respect. But why? He played eight years for the Cleveland- Los Angeles Rams. Won two titles. Won one MVP trophy in a watered-down post-World War II NFL that competed for players with the All-America Football Conference. Completed half his passes. Threw 31 more interceptions than touchdown passes. Lost his job to Norm Van Brocklin in his sixth season. Did this guy get into the Hall because of his tryst with Jane Russell?
No, this is not only the rant of a former New York Giants beat man (Newsday, 1985-88). In 1979 San Francisco 49ers architect Bill Walsh liked a hard-throwing kid from Morehead State ( Simms) better than he liked a gaunt winner from Notre Dame ( Joe Montana), but the Giants beat Walsh to the punch on draft day. "Not to take anything from Joe," Walsh told me years later, "but I know Phil could have done the things in our offense that Joe did." Simms, however, went to the Giants and became a chameleon. He was Bob Griese most weeks, Dan Fouts a few others. In 1984 coach Bill Parcells sidled up to Simms in the tunnel before their season opener and told him the Giants would pass, pass and pass because they didn't have a big-time runner. Simms threw the Giants into the playoffs with a 4,044-yard season. The next year he was back to ol' conservative Phil. His play in Super Bowl XXI—he completed 22 of 25 passes—ensures his place in history.