Commentary:Accurate Reporting Or Simm-Sationalism?

Will the real <B>Chris Simms </b>please stand up?

Was the former Texas quarterback ready to give Longhorn coaches and fans the middle finger during much of his collegiate career, as reported earlier this week on ESPN.com? ("I just wanted to leave here and say, 'To hell with this place'"). Or, are we to believe the UT Men's Athletic Department's version of Simms' assessment of his overly scrutinized years at the Forty Acres? ("I love everything about The University of Texas, Austin, my coaches, teammates and all of the fans. Everyone was great to me…").

The University's account reports that Simms (in Mobile, Alabama, this week preparing for Saturday's Senior Bowl) was surprised that such comments would be attributed to him in the piece written by Adrian Wojnarowski. The ESPN article, in essence, depicts Simms as "angry" and "bitter" at coaches for underutilizing him and at fans for abusing him.

So, which is it?

Perhaps no former teammate (other than close friend WR Kyle Shanahan) is better suited to appraise Simms' demeanor than SE Roy Williams.

"That's his opinion," Williams said Wednesday. "He spoke the truth, and by that I mean he spoke (his understanding of) the truth on his own behalf. Maybe he wanted to get it off his chest. Maybe he's saying they (coaches) didn't maximize his potential and that's hurt his status in the (NFL) draft."

For the record, Simms reportedly told ESPN.com: "I wish it had been different my sophomore year. We lost to OU 63-14. I didn't get into the game until it was 35-0. After that, they picked Major as the starter. I wish they had picked me as the starter. Because the season was lost at that point. We had lost to Oklahoma and we had lost to Stanford. We weren't going to win the national championship. I was really hoping they would make me the starter so I could get more experience for the next year… As soon as we got done with that bowl game after my sophomore year, they told me, 'You're going to be the starter next year. Don't worry about it.' So, if you knew that all year, why didn't I play the last five games and let me get some experience?… That's the thing that I've always regretted. Going into my junior year I was inexperienced. In my fifth game ever, there I am sitting there against Oklahoma in the Red River War, against the No. 2 team in the country."

Williams said he read the interview, but told Austin sports writers to ask Simms about it. However, Williams did add that Simms would have benefited from a redshirt year (something that head coach Mack Brown has repeatedly said was also his preference were it not for lack of depth at quarterback).

"In all honesty, he should have redshirted," Williams said. "That would have given him a chance to get to know the game a little more. He was just now getting to know Greg Davis' offense."

The ESPN.com article reports that Simms' unsatisfying sophomore season almost sullied his junior year as well.

"It came close, really close, to changing me," the ESPN.com piece continued. "Last year, I was in a bad mood all the time. I was angry at a lot of people. I was angry at this place, the coaches, the people... I was bitter about everything in the world. It almost did get the best of me. I just wanted to leave here and say, 'To hell with this place.'"

Texas men's athletic officials immediately countered by posting a piece on Simms on its "official" website late Tuesday in which the former quarterback expressed surprise at the ESPN article.

In UT's version, Simms said: "Sure I went through some tough times during my college career, as I'm sure everyone does. But I wouldn't take anything back from my time at Texas. I learned a lot, matured and had a great experience. I have so many great memories and made some of my best friends in the world while I was there… I love everything about The University of Texas, Austin, my coaches, teammates and all of the fans. Everyone was great to me, and if I had it to do all over, I would definitely pick Texas again."

The ESPN.com piece depicted Simms as critical of a Texas offense that he deemed too simple to showcase his talents to NFL scouts. Either by way of clarification or damage control, here is what Simms reportedly told TexasSports.com: "I wasn't looking to play in an offense that threw the ball 50 times. But if there are coaches or scouts out there that want to see if I can succeed in an offense that asks a quarterback to do that, I want to show them I can. That was a big part of the reason I decided to play in this game. Hopefully, I can show people that I can make all the throws and plays necessary to succeed in a variety of offenses."

Not counting my years as both editor of the Texas Alumni Association's sports newsletter and as Daily Texan senior sports writer, I have covered UT football (and Simms) for all of one season. I can honestly report that Simms typically praised Davis' play calling after each of the 11 wins, although he stated early last season that "Coach Davis likes to keep it close to the vest. That's just the way he coaches, and we just go with it."

To read between the lines is to see Simms yearning for a more wide-open offense. To see replays of the 2001 Big 12 Championship Game, as well as the past two Oklahoma horrors, is to see why coaches might not trust Simms with that kind of attack.

I have been on record as advocating Applewhite as quarterback throughout his junior and senior years, but also calling for the respect that Simms deserves for an otherwise exceptional career at Texas. He is, after all, second only to legendary Bobby Layne in the win column. And the number of "haters" when it comes to Simms borders on irrational.

It's hard to imagine someone who comes across as classy as Simms as having uttered the kind of comments he allegedly gave to ESPN. At the same time, it's hard to imagine any Texas player more media savvy than Simms. As such, it's difficult to fathom that he was THAT misquoted, or that his comments were taken out of context to THAT extent.

So, which one is it? Will the real Chris Simms please stand up?

Nah, forget it. In the immortal words of Bill Murray, "It just doesn't matter!"

It's time to put the Simms-Applewhite controversy to rest. The far more important quarterback question now involves the much-anticipated competition between Vince Young and Chance Mock when spring training begins February 24.


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