Handley's QB decision evokes Giant debate

August 23, 1991|By Frank Litsky | Frank Litsky,New York Times

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This was the first full day of Jef Hostetler's reign as the New York Giants' starting quarterback. And everyone seemed to have an opinion as to whether Hostetler or Phil Simms should have been chosen for the job.

There were opinions, or at least a vote of appreciation, from the 1,400 people who packed the ballroom of the New York Hilton yesterday for the annual Kickoff Luncheon honoring the Giants. There were opinions from JoAnne Handley's family and co-workers. There were opinions from the many people who telephoned the Giants' offices here.

On Wednesday, the preseason battle for the starting quarterback job ended when coach Ray Handley chose the 30-year-old Hostetler over the 35-year-old incumbent, Simms. Hardly anyone had expected that decision.

For while Hostetler had replaced the injured Simms late last season and led the Giants to victory in Super Bowl XXV, Simms seemed about to be anointed again as the starter.

Except for two players getting medical treatment, all of the Giants attended the luncheon and were introduced. Hostetler received a nice hand. Simms received a standing ovation lasting about a minute, the first anyone could recall in the long history of this luncheon.

"I feel good about what the fans did for Phil Simms," Handley said, "because I don't see his career over."

Robert Tisch, the Giants' new co-owner, said the biggest reaction he encountered was surprise that Handley chose Hostetler and not Simms. But Harry Hulmes, the Giants' assistant general manager, said the reaction he encountered in the football world was different, that there, the unexpected was almost expected.

"I talked with one other team today about something else," he said, "and no one mentioned our quarterback. I don't think football people can be surprised by anything. We've run out of surprises."

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