Phil Simms, Quarterback, Super Bowl XXI
When the Giants drafted Phil Simms with the seventh overall pick out of Morehead State in the 1979 NFL Draft, they had the feeling that this tough, savvy kid from Kentucky would be their Prince Valiant. It took awhile for Simms to deliver on that promise but by the mid-1980s, he was clearly at the peak of his powers.
After getting bumrushed by the Chicago Bears the year before in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Giants took the NFL by the horns in 1986. Their defense was stifling and their running game was one of the league’s best behind little Joe Morris. Simms finally had a team around him and he flourished as did the Giants.
Behind a lunchpail operation of an offensive line that head coach Bill Parcells named “The Suburbanites”, Simms finally had the protection he needed to fully show his wares. Parcells, who had usually sat on leads and let his defense close out games, grew more confident in Simms and allowed him to throw the football more.
After blowing away San Francisco and Washington by a collective score of 66-3 in the NFC Playoffs, the Giants would face John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. Standing in the end zone before the game, I watched Simms warm up. He was especially sharp and I remember thinking to myself that there’s no way the Giants were losing this one.
I was right. After a rocky start, the Giants buried the Broncos after the sun set over the western ridge of the Rose Bowl. Simms was a master, completing a Super Bowl record 22-of-25 passes for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also ran three times for 25 yards, which included a 22-yard scamper.
Naturally, he was named the game’s MVP and became the first NFL player to announce that he was going to Disney World. Years later, I asked him what was different about that day. He laughed.
“The weather,” he said. “Do you know what my career would have looked like if I played in warm weather all the time?”
He’d be a Hall of Famer, which in my opinion he should be anyway.