Ray Handley is obviously a quick study.
The scouting report on the new New York Giants coach, who almost got out of coaching the last two years to enter law school, is that he is a sharp guy. It's said that when the coaches go out to dinner, he can take the check and add up each person's share in his head.
It didn't take him long to add up the Giants' quarterback situation.
Unlike his mentor, Bill Parcells, whom he replaced in May, he passed his first test as a head coach. In 1983 as a rookie coach, Parcells picked Scott Brunner as his quarterback over Phil Simms. Even Parcells has had to admit that move was a disaster.
Handley showed he wasn't going to make a similar mistake last week when he picked Simms over Jeff Hostetler, who led the team to the Super Bowl after Simms broke a bone in his foot.
"Phil's the incumbent," Handley said. "He has to be unseated. His game has not diminished. Jeff has earned the right to challenge for the job. If Jeff can't unseat him, Phil will start the season. Maybe I never stated it that way before, but that's always been my thinking."
His thinking was very logical. It would have been easy to get
carried away by Hostetler's showing in the Super Bowl. But Simms has been better than Hostetler the past five seasons. As long as his foot had healed and he hadn't lost anything at age 35, he was the obvious choice. By acting quickly, Handley also avoided letting the situation fester.
All this may have seemed to be like an easy decision. But what seem to be easy decisions aren't always easy, especially when a rookie coach is making them. Just ask Parcells.
Remember when the San Francisco 49ers were trashing Bill Walsh after George Seifert replaced him two years ago?
Cornerback Mark Collins is doing that to Parcells now that he's gone.
"Bill Parcells never talked about any other players except Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, [Mark] Bavaro and Simms. . . . I never liked it and I let him know it," he told a New York writer.
Did he like Parcells?
"Put it this way. I'm just glad I'm in a different situation and we're starting all over again," Collins said. "To say I didn't like the man is bad. I respected what he was trying to do. Sometimes I didn't agree with it, but then he's not going to agree with some of the things I did, either. He's the head guy. You never have to like your boss. Just produce for him."
The Giants, though, will have a tougher time winning in Handley's first season than the 49ers did in Seifert's first season.
That's because the two players on the left side of their offensive line, Jumbo Elliott and Williams Roberts, are among the seven veteran holdouts including running back Dave Meggett.
Elliott's holdout has given Clarence Jones, a fourth-round pick from Maryland, more playing time and a good shot to make the team as a backup.
But for the Giants' power game to work, they need their starting line intact and in synch. It's noteworthy that in 1986 and 1990 -- the team's two Super Bowl seasons -- the starting line was in camp from day one.
All's fair in love, war and the expansion derby.
That appears to be the message from St. Louis, which borrowed a technique used by movie producers selling a bad movie to help promote its exhibition Saturday night between the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets.
For example, if a movie producer sees a quote in a movie review, "It's unbelieveable how bad this movie is" he then runs a blurb in an ad, "Unbelieveable."
The St. Louis backers ran a full-page ad last Sunday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoting a half sentence out of context from this column three weeks ago.
Making a point that one of St. Louis' strengths is the Busch brewery money, the sentence here read: "St. Louis doesn't have the football history that Baltimore does -- it has sold only 30,000 tickets for an exhibition game scheduled next month -- but it has the backing of Anheuser-Busch."
The ad left off the part about the backing of the beer company and just used the first half of the quote about St. Louis' lack of football history.
The ad then implored St. Louis fans to buy tickets to send the right message to the NFL that it wants football. It apparently worked. Sales are up to 40,000 and the St. Louis group now hopes for a sellout.
Oh, well, we're always happy to perform a public service and help sell tickets.
Incidentally, while being precise, it's not the beer corporation that's backing the St. Louis effort, but James Busch Orthwein, nephew of the late beer baron August Busch and the company's No. 1 stockholder.
Instead of running out-of-context quotes in ads, what all the expansion contenders should do is stop playing host to these exhibition games. Baltimore is keeping up with the Joneses and having one next year, but they don't prove anything one way or the other about a city's ability to support a team and are becoming harder to sell.