This was an outstanding accomplishment for the franchise that went 8-8 and 6-10 in the two seasons following their improbable win in Super Bowl XXV. It was significant for Simms on a personal level as well.
He broke his foot late in the 1990 season and watched backup Jeff Hostetler lead the Giants to their second Lombardi Trophy in four years. Ray Handley, who succeeded Bill Parcells as Giants head coach after the ’90 season, kept Hostetler as the starter based on the team’s Super Bowl run. Hostetler broke his back, forcing Simms back in the starting lineup for the final four games of ’91. He was the named the starter at the beginning of the ’92 season but was limited to four games because of injury.
In the 1992 Supplemental Draft, the Giants selected Duke quarterback Dave Brown. After the ’93 season, Simms had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. He was expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Simms was preparing for an offseason workout when he was summoned into the office of Dan Reeves, who succeeded Handley as head coach after the ’92 season.
Reeves told Simms the Giants were going to release him. Simms was completely blindsided. After all, he helped lead the team to victory in Super Bowl XXI, the franchise’s first league title in three decades. He set a record for quarterback efficiency in a Super Bowl (22-of-25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns, completing 88 percent of his passes) that stands to this day.
In addition, Simms was coming off one of his best statistical seasons where he earned a Pro Bowl berth. The Giants would have had home field advantage throughout the playoffs if it were not for a regular-season ending loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Why were the Giants making such a change?
Co-owner and team president Wellington Mara and general manager George Young faced the media at a press conference announcing Simms’ release and subsequent retirement from the NFL. Young was hesitant to go with the then 38-year-old Simms because the NFL instituted a salary cap for the first time heading into the 1994 season.
“The risk was too great for the uncertainty,” Young said.
Mara was moved to tears during the press conference, referring to the occasion as “a day of overwhelming sadness”. He didn’t agree with Young, who wanted to see Brown and ’92 eighth-round selection Kent Graham play. However, Young had the final say in personnel matters and Mara had to concede.
History tells us neither Brown nor Graham was a long-term solution for the Giants at the quarterback position. It is worth nothing that both Mara and Young went before the media after the decision was made.
A quarter century later, the Giants find themselves in the midst of another controversial handling of the quarterback position. Head coach Pat Shurmur announced Tuesday rookie Daniel Jones will be the team’s starter relegating 16-year vet and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning to the backup spot.
Co-owner, team president, and CEO John Mara has been conspicuously silent since the announcement was made. There has been no comment from general manager Dave Gettleman either. Shurmur said he consulted with them but ultimately the decision to promote Jones was his.
This quarterback change couldn’t have been made without John Mara and Gettleman signing off on it or even initiating it. Their silence on the matter is troubling. Shurmur shouldn’t have to go out and face the media all by his lonesome. A decision like this is above his pay grade. He is not Bill Belichick, who has acted as his own GM during the nearly two decades he’s been in Foxborough.
Gettleman needed to be front and center on this. He’s been upfront and honest about everything from he is perceived by current and former players to his own mortality after his cancer diagnosis. Gettleman has certainly been more available than his predecessor, Jerry Reese. John Mara, though not nearly as gregarious and engaging as father Wellington, holds pressers and addresses the media and fans more so than most NFL owners.
The Giants brain trust has made a number of head scratching moves as of late.
The selection of Jones pretty much meant that Manning’s days as a starter were numbered. At the same time, they told Manning (and the world) they wanted him to be the team’s starter only to bench him after two games. The Giants devised this confusing strategy of simultaneously rebuilding and winning now. Starting Jones means their strategy failed. Gettleman and John Mara not addressing fans and the media means they know their strategy and they can’t (or won’t) admit it failed miserably.
Wellington Mara was in tears at the press conference signaling the end of Phil Simms’ career. His son is nowhere to be found after Eli Manning was demoted. A few words from John Mara could help make this transition a little smoother. Instead, Shurmur stood at the podium alone. Manning and Jones faced a slew of cameras and microphones by themselves cleaning up a mess they are not responsible for.
The New York Giants have long been regarded as one of the classiest NFL franchises, even during the 1970s when they were synonymous with bad football. They set a new low with the way they completely botched up this quarterback transition. The team has issues that a new quarterback alone cannot fix and it begins at the top of the organizational hierarchy.