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SUPER BOWL XXI : THE WINNERS : Simms Made Quite a Name for Himself: You Can Call Him Phil

January 26, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

It's funny, but until Sunday, Phil Simms was never just Phil Simms.

People couldn't spit out his name without hanging a qualifier on it.

You may remember him as "that damned Phil Simms" and "Phil he's-OK-for-now Simms."

For eight seasons as the New York Giants' quarterback, it's been Phil Simms and a mouthful of ifs, ands and buts.

And what was so different about the week leading to the Super Bowl, when we learned that Simms was not as tall or as swift or as strong as Denver's John Elway? That Simms was not as gifted.

It was assumed that anyone with two hands and vocal chords could play quarterback for the Giants and that Simms just happened to be that guy.

The thought that Phil Simms could lead the Giants to a 39-20 Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos and win the game's most valuable player award didn't seem possible.

But Simms did it, and in the process knocked a few dangling participles off his shoulders.

And how great it felt to be Phil Simms, period.

"After all the crap I've taken over the years, this makes everything worth it," Simms said.

This, of course, was a Super Bowl day that will be remembered for years.

Simms wasn't just a part of this victory, he was the star of it.

He had the kind of day you expect from the Elways and Joe Montanas and Dan Marinos.

What do you say about a guy who completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns?

So now Simms will now be remembered for this, not for years of trying to live up to expectations.

Simms will remember that he led a team to a title and broke a few records along the way. He will remember that he completed 88% of his passes, more than any other quarterback in NFL playoff history.

It was Simms, not Elway, who completed a Super Bowl record 10 consecutive passes.

It was Simms who made up for every cuss word said to his wife, who sat in the stands patiently as she watched her husband during the lean years.

This win was for Phil Simms.

Simms said earlier in the week that if the Giants were to win the game, every New York fan who ever booed him could kiss him where the New Jersey sun don't shine.

Simms may not be Elway, but he isn't a lily either. "John Elway is a great quarterback," Giant nose tackle Jim Burt said. "But when he started to get all that attention, I think it ticked Phil off. He didn't say anything, but we all knew that he didn't take it well, like he was saying 'hey, what about me?' Phil doesn't have the talent that Elway does, but he's the best clutch quarterback in the league."

This was a game that Simms had dreamed about for weeks.

Center Bart Oates remembers Simms' first practice after the Giants had clinched the NFC title.

"The Friday of that first week, he was just hitting everything," Oates said. "Bill (Parcells) told him to save something for the game. He was that hot. The guy wants to win so badly."

Simms said he felt it the moment he stepped on the Rose Bowl field before Sunday's game.

His teammates said they saw it in their quarterback's eyes. This was a man who was not going to be denied.

"It was like when you're golfing and every putt you hit is going in," Simms said. "That's how I felt. I told the guys that 'Hey, I've got it working today.' "

Simms said he was almost insulted that the Bronco defense decided to spend most of the afternoon playing man-to-man defense. He said Denver was almost daring the Giants to throw.

"When you think of the Broncos, you think about Elway," Simms said. "When you think of the Giants, you don't think about Simms. That doesn't bother me. What bothered me was that no one was even talking about our passing game."

The Broncos were talking about it after Simms threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Zeke Mowatt to put the Giants ahead, 7-3, in the first quarter, a drive in which Simms completed all six passes he attempted.

Denver was talking about Simms when he put his team on top for good at 16-10 after a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Bavaro in the third quarter.

They were talking about him after Simms threw his third touchdown pass, a six-yarder that bounced through Bavaro's hands to Phil McConkey to give the Giants a 33-10 lead with 10:56 left.

"There was not one play did I drop back and feel that something was going to go wrong," Simms said. "I didn't throw one ball where I said 'Damn, I want that one back.' If there was only one, it was the second one to Bavaro, because I threw it so hard he couldn't catch it."

But he threw it hard enough for it to bounce into the hands of McConkey, who brought it in for a touchdown.

No, Phil Simms will never be as good as John Elway.

"I can't even deny that anymore," Simms said, smiling. "But this was a big one for me to play well in."

On Sunday, you couldn't find a Giant who would trade Simms for Elway.

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