"Phil had this strange sort of glow. It was like he was in a perfect biorhythm stage, or something."
Somewhere inside the mind of every quarterback there's a 22-for-25 day, a day when every pass has eyes and every decision is correct. And for a showcase there's a bright, sunlit stadium with more than a half-century of tradition, a place like, well, the Rose Bowl. There are 101,063 people in the stands to watch, and about 2,000 writers and broadcasters to tell people about it, and some 130 million Americans gathered around their TV sets to see what has been called the Ultimate Game.
That's where the fantasy usually stays, inside, because nobody ever goes 22 for 25 in a game like the Super Bowl, not in this high-powered era with sophisticated defenses featuring shifting zones and blitzes and mixed coverages.
But let's say there's a quarterback who deserves this mythical kind of day, a quarterback who has spent eight years in the NFL being hammered by adversity and injury, who has heard the boos of the New York fans for as long as he can remember, a quarterback like the Giants' Phil Simms.
On Sunday, Simms got even. The Giants crushed the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI, and Simms, the game's MVP, personally carved them up with the best percentage passing day in Super Bowl history—in any NFL championship game ever, for that matter.
You say someone must have gotten the name wrong, that Simms is a down-field passer, usually with a low percentage of completions. Well, you have a point. He was below .500 for the two postseason wins, and that's not easy when you're beating people by scores like 49-3 and 17-0. Fourteen of the ranking NFL passers had higher percentages than Simms this season. A day like 22 for 25 is for the dinkers, the dump-off artists, not the serious gunners like Simms. But there it was. The guy was simply amazing.
"He quarterbacked as good a game as ever has been played," said the Giants head coach. Bill Parcells.
"Technically as close to a perfect game as I've seen a quarterback have," said the Giants offensive coach, Ron Erhardt.
The guys on the same assembly line as Simms, the ones who work with him every day, said they had a hunch he might have a surprise like this cooked up for the Broncos. They said it started back at Giants Stadium more than a week before the Super Bowl. "We came back to practice on Thursday after the Redskins game." said Bart Oates, the center. "We had a lackluster, mediocre practice. The next day Coach Parcells kind of got on us. He said, I expected a low-key practice, but this won't do. You've got to pick it up.'
"Phil was phenomenal in that Friday practice. He hit everything he threw. The receivers were making some tough catches. Parcells said, 'Hey, this is too much. Save something for the game.' Phil had this strange sort of a glow. It was like he was in a perfect biorhythm stage or something."