Simms Climbs Charts But Can't Win Hearts

With a win against No. 17 Iowa State Saturday, QB <B>Chris Simms </b>(21-5)<B> </b>will tie QB <B>Major Applewhite </b>(22-8) as the fifth-winningest signal-caller in Texas history. He has already passed legendary <B>Bobby Layne </b>in terms of winning percentage (.800).

So, where is the love for the senior from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey?

Head coach Mack Brown opened his press conference Monday by telling a story about a visiting sports writer who asked if Chris Simms had been heavily criticized lately.

"Lately?" Brown responded. "Where have you been? You haven't been around here the past four years."

Yet, if Texas runs the table the rest of the season, Simms will leap past former quarterbacks James Brown (25-13-1) and Peter Gardere (25-16) in the ‘win' column. Add a bowl victory and Simms would move up into a second-place tie with Marty Akins (27-9) and could presumably run for Texas State Comptroller in 20 years.

So, why are so many Texas fans already counting the days until the Vince Young era? Why hasn't Simms been as widely embraced as the other Texas quarterbacks?

Obviously, the quarterback controversy during his tenure was not his fault. And he is over-the-top personable. Besides, for the second year in a row, Texas is ranked No. 7 on the last weekend in October. (The last time Texas was ranked that high on this date was back in 1984 when the Horns were No. 3, and then the wheels completely came off for QB Todd Dodge and Co.) So, again, where is the love?

It's because people have held Simms to a higher standard based on pedigree and publicity, Brown said. And they have also judged him based on "six bad quarters of football" during an entire career.

It's more likely the latter, and we could probably add at least two bad quarters to that, although the offensive implosion against the Sooners cannot be laid entirely at Simms' feet.

But whether it's fair or not, the perception surrounding any UT quarterback is predicated on how well he does in four outings: the Oklahoma game, championship games, bowl games and Texas A&M games (in that order).

Here's a litmus test:

Quick! What's the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about:

Peter Gardere. Yep, he was 4-0 against the Evil Empire.

James Brown? Umm-hmm. Roll left. Texas: 37, Nebraska: 27. Big 12 champs. (Honorable mention: his gutsy performance in that 16-6 win at College Station to win the final SWC championship. Plus, his first collegiate start culminating in the 1994 win over OU.)

And as for Simms? (sigh) See what I mean?

Simms is 2-1 against the Aggies, but 0-2 against the Sooners, 0-1 in conference championships and 0-1 in bowl games. Discounting his impromptu 1999 start at A&M as an untested freshman, the other four losses clearly mitigate his 21 wins (in public perception outside of the hallowed halls of Bellmont).

One of the first things I ever wrote about Simms is that if Heismans were handed out based on courtesy and class, he would have two on the mantel and one in the trunk of his car. A recent example: I trailed Simms to the interview room after the OU game and then he suddenly turned, made his way through hecklers toward the Sooner sideline, in order to congratulate head coach Bob Stoops. Simms, of course, did not have to do that -- but he did. And it personifies what kind of kid he is.

I know, I know, it's terrific when guys who wear the Burnt Orange represent The University so well publicly, just as long as they can get down and dirty against the Sooners of the world.

And he has (in so many words), according to Brown.

"He was tough when he got here," Brown said, "and he's matured so much. He's so much tougher now than he was before."

When Simms stood firm in the pocket and got leveled by three Kansas State defenders Saturday before completing that 32-yard pass to FL B.J. Johnson on the game-winning drive, it reminded me of Applewhite hanging tough to get that pass to Wane McGarity in the 1998 win at Nebraska.

"Chris competes every day in practice," Brown said. "His leadership and Cory Redding's leadership every week has been so good, but especially this past week."

Brown has repeatedly said Simms did not have the luxury of a redshirt year, and that most quarterbacks come into their own during their "junior redshirt" season. There has been just enough evidence of that to convince me that Simms is just now coming into his own and that he could be really, really special -- next season, when he's playing on Sunday.

As for now, if there is a College Football God, then Simms runs the table, beats Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game (after OU loses twice, Football God-willing) and wins a BCS Bowl game (preferably the one played in Arizona).

And as for Simms? Following the Kansas State game, Brown's wife (Sally) asked Chris if he had to do it all over again, would he still come to Texas.

Simms' response: "Absolutely. I love Texas. It's been a great experience for me."

And it has been for Orangebloods as well…at least .807 percent of the time.

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