"Try a teammate."
"And you should have seen Lawrence Taylor! Thirty-four years old? Achilles-tendon surgery? Hah! That youngster was running around like a chipmunk on chili pepper! He got two sacks and forced a fumble by Jim Harbaugh and recovered it. Did you know LT had never had a sack against the Bears before? Ever seen that cool LT diamond earring he wears?"
"I think I hear my dog at the door."
"And it was kinda sad. The Bears' rookie coach, Dave Wannstedt, he had to watch me and LT ruin his NFL debut. In front of all those Chicago fans who want to build a shrine to Mike Ditka. Felt sorry for Dave. I mean, the guy's only a few years older than me. Must have broken his heart. Hey, Els. I'm grinning."
"Gotta run, Phil."
"So I was wondering—remember when we talked before the preseason about Reeves, and like everybody else I'm figuring that you're the one that pulled all those games out of the fire? Well, now I'm just wondering if maybe he had something to do with it too. Because of how I played today. You know, now that he's my coach. John? John? Are you there?..."
No, New York certainly didn't look like the Giants of recent years in this game, which snapped the Bears' season-opener victory streak at nine. And if it was disciplinarian Reeves who made the difference, Simms could not have been happier. "Honestly, I haven't won a lot of games late like that," he said afterward. "In all my years with the Giants, we either had it locked by then or we were out of it."
New York was always the team that used its offense to score a few points and then kill the clock so the defense could annihilate the opponent, tactics that earned the Giants Super Bowl championships in 1987 and '91. Then, following that second title, coach Bill Parcells quit and Ray Handley came in and the system went to hell. Enter Reeves, the quiet taskmaster, whose job it became to retool the Giants fast and do it with a 14-year veteran like Simms (coming off elbow surgery that forced him to miss most of last season) and a 12-year veteran like linebacker Taylor, whose Achilles-tendon surgery last year had him pondering retirement.
Still, it seemed like a good deal to the 49-year-old Reeves, whose own blocked coronary arteries had forced him to consider quitting. "On film I saw a team that performed well and then badly," he said of the Giants. "But I figured a team that had won a championship just two years ago couldn't be that far down."
And was he nervous before his debut?