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WHAT A WAY TO GO
Giants quarterback Phil Simms sat in his den in Franklin Lakes, N.J., last Thursday night and watched the Ram defense chase Oiler quarterback Warren Moon all over Memphis in their preseason finale. "Jeez, Jeff Fisher has these guys all jacked up," Simms said of L.A.'s new defensive coordinator. "Look at 'em dogging Moon!"
For Simms, it was the first day of the rest of his (NFL) life—the day after new Giants coach Ray Handley had decided that Jeff Hostetler, not Simms, would start the season opener against the 49ers. Simms is going to be a backup for the first time since 1983, but he is taking the demotion rather well.
He's still into it, still into football. Just two months before his 36th birthday, Simms swears we haven't heard the last of him. "Listen," he says, a trace of his native Kentucky still in his voice after 13 years in New Jersey, "I might not take a snap this year. If I don't, I guarantee it's not the end of me. I know I'm not going to start here again, unless something happens to Jeff, and I accept that. I'll have to have breaks to ever start anywhere again, because of my age. But if anybody thinks I'm going to fade into oblivion...that's not going to happen. I'll play again."
Four of Simms's first five seasons in the league ended prematurely because of injury, and New York fans booed him mercilessly when he did play, because he didn't win. But then he threw for 4,044 yards in 1984, was MVP of the Pro Bowl in '86 and was the Super Bowl MVP in '87.
Ten games into the 1990 season, the Giants were unbeaten, and Simms's 108.0 quarterback rating led the NFL by a dozen points. Then, in Week 15 against Buffalo, Simms suffered a severely sprained ligament in his right arch, and Hostetler took the Giants the rest of the way—all the way to victory against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
New York coach Bill Parcells decided to go out on top and was replaced by Handley, a Giants offensive assistant. Handley was enticed by Hostetler's mobility and overall terrific play, especially given that Hoss had thrown a total of only 93 passes in seven NFL seasons before taking over for Simms in December. After having his best year statistically, Simms had lost his job.
New York City's annual preseason luncheon for the Giants was held the day after Handley's stunning decision, and a crowd of 1,400 stood to cheer Simms, their former whipping boy, for 45 seconds. It might have been his last ovation in New York. Although Simms would not talk specifically about his plans, those close to him (and even Simms's own words) suggest that he would like one last chance to start—off Broadway. Far off Broadway.
STILL IN LABOR
The NFL's executive vice-president for labor relations, Harold Henderson, plans to present a proposal for a collective bargaining agreement to the players this month. It would be the first solid CBA offer to be tendered by the owners since the players' strike of October 1987, and it would come in the wake of management's recent setbacks in federal court regarding the NFL's exemption from U.S. antitrust laws.