They were Giants

It is less than an hour before the New England Patriots play the Bills at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium. Phil Simms watches both teams warm up on the field from his vantage point in the press box.

After a few moments, the former New York Giants quarterback shakes his head in an almost disbelief.

"I really don't think about my playing career that much anymore," commented Simms, who played 14 seasons (1979-93) for the Giants. "Sometimes when I watch games it's hard to believe I actually played down there.

"The game has become so fast and so rough. I guess I don't remember it that way when I played."

Simms came to the Giants as their number one draft choice in 1979 out of Morehead State in Kentucky. The reaction by most of the New York City media was, "Phil Who?"

The Giants had suffered through six straight losing seasons. They had not made the playoffs for 15 years.

While Simms wasn't an overnight success, he represented a bright future for the Giants. Three seasons after arriving in New York, Simms helped lead his team to the playoffs.

Unfortunately Simms wasn't around for the post-season in 1981, having suffered a separated shoulder just 10 games into the season. He missed the entire 1982 campaign with a knee injury suffered in the preseason.

Things didn't get much better in 1983 when Simms, now riding the bench as a reserve under new head coach, Bill Parcells, suffered another injury that ended his season early.

But everything changed in 1984 when Parcells decided to go with Simms as his starter. For three consecutive seasons Simms' career improved, with the ‘86 campaign as his best, as well as the Giants' greatest ever season.

It ended with the Giants defeating the Denver Broncos, 39-20, in Super Bowl XXI.

But it was a game earlier in the season that Simms considers his greatest moment ever as an NFL quarterback.

"My favorite game as a player came at Minnesota against the Vikings," recalled Simms. "We were trailing the Vikes late in the fourth quarter.

"We had a fourth down and 17 situation facing us. I basically told wide receiver Bobby Johnson to run a pattern that would land him near the right sideline.

"Minnesota knew we were going to throw so they really put on quite a rush. I still managed to get the ball off and hit Johnson with a 21-yard gain. It eventually helped us set up the game winning field goal as we beat the Vikings, 22-20.

"For me it was the best game I ever played. And not just because of the fourth and seventeen situation. But it was because I played the game the way I wanted to play. It was the type of game I wanted to play because it was me.

"I was the guy I always wanted to be in that game. I played tough and overcame some tough circumstances. I just wish I could have had more of them during my NFL career."

Of course, the high point of Simms' career came in Super Bowl XXI. In that game the Giants quarterback completed a Super Bowl record 88 percent of his passes (22 of 25) for 268 yards and three touchdowns.

For his performance Simms was named the game's MVP as he led the Giants to their first Super Bowl win ever.

But Simms would never have it as good again. He seemed to be headed that way in 1990, leading the Giants to an 11-3 record before suffering another season-ending injury. Jeff Hostetler replaced Simms and led the Giants through the playoffs and another Super Bowl victory, this time over the Bills, in Super Bowl XXV.

It was hard to believe that by the end of the 1993 NFL season Simms' career would be finished.

More than a decade later, Simms sees the game of football changing more than ever.

"The game has really evolved since I left," he stated. "They have spread the field more. There are more formations. There are more plays.

"And the defenses, oh my gosh. The complexity of the defenses has gone through the roof. In fact, I laugh about this sometimes, I think someday they're going to have to change the rules. They're going to have to settle the defenses down a little to give the offenses a chance.

"If I were playing today, I hope I would have the ability to change with the game."

Simms watches those changes today as an expert football analyst for CBS-TV. He also writes a weekly Internet column.

And being an ex-quarterback the 47-year-old Simms has his thoughts on who are today's top quarterbacks.

"To me the top quarterback in the game today is Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts," remarked Simms, who resides in Franklin Lakes, NJ. "I know that a lot of people have said that he still hasn't won the big game yet. Every time I hear that I just want to turn around and walk away because those people don't know what they're talking about. Peyton is always the first guy that comes to my mind when I think of the top quarterback.

"Brett Favre still has the ability to make great throws. There are only a handful of guys in the league that can do that.

"Donovan McNabb has everything you would ever want in a quarterback. He's got leadership, toughness, size, strength and a powerful throwing arm. Yeah, he may not be the most accurate quarterback all the time. But you can't have it all.

"And Daunte Culpepper is the most underrated quarterback in the NFL. He just about has it all too. Again, I don't know why he doesn't get the recognition."

Then with a grin on his face and a quick wink, Simms concludes, "Oh, that's right. He's never won the big game. I knew it was something.

"And remember, Daunte didn't come into the NFL with big fanfare. No big awards or big school. That sex appeal of the quarterback wasn't there. And once you make the NFL, it's hard to catch up.

"And I can relate to that."

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