Phil Simms finally may find out what it's like to be really appreciated.
Even though the New York Giants quarterback has been one of the best in the past decade, he's had an odd relationship with the critical New York fans.
They've been quick to boo him, and they've never really taken him to their hearts. He's easy to take for granted because he's more of a steady player than a flashy player.
"He may be one of the few players who's played in New York who's been underrated," said an executive with another club.
But the fans may now start appreciating how good he was. After he was benched for Jeff Hostetler by new coach Ray Handley on Wednesday, Simms got a standing ovation at a luncheon the next day.
His benching was symbolic of how he's never been appreciated by his coaches, much less the fans. The first thing a new Giants coach does is bench Simms. Bill Parcells did it in 1983 when he went with Scott Brunner before he realized his mistake.
At age 35, Simms probably is on the downside, but it wouldn't be surprising if this benching turns out to be a mistake. We may not have seen the last of Simms.
Hostetler came off the bench to win a Super Bowl last season in one of the most heartwarming stories of any football season. But he's thrown 231 NFL passes. Simms has started 143 games. That's an awful lot of experience on the bench.
Simms also showed what an old pro he is by the way he handled it. He didn't moan or groan or demand to be traded. He said he plans to finish his career with the Giants.
When Handley seemed tentative in making the decision, Simms even told him to go ahead and make it.
"Ray was worried about this and that. I even said to him: 'Hey, Ray, don't worry about it. Make your decision and there'll be an uproar for a couple of days and it'll be over. And we'll all live and go on,' " he said.
Simms is ready to go on, but don't count him out.
"I read in the paper and people say, 'Well, now my career as a backup has started.' They make it sound like I died and I'm coming back and [I'm] going to be this other guy. I didn't do that, and I'm not dead. Look, I'll just be ready to play, and if it arises, it does, and if it doesn't, I'll live with that," he said.
Hostetler may find getting the job was a mixed blessing. He's going to have to live up to the standard Simms set.
When the Giants played the San Francisco 49ers last December the most ballyhooed regular-season game in the past five years, the quarterback matchup was Simms vs. Joe Montana.
When the teams meet a week from tomorrow night in the season opener, it'll probably be Hostetler vs. Steve Young.
Montana is likely to miss the opener with a torn tendon in his arm, and the injury has raised questions about his future at age 35. Montana came back from serious back surgery in 1986, but when a quarterback has arm problems in his mid-30s, it can be the end.
Terry Bradshaw, the only other quarterback to win four Super Bowls, saw his career end at age 35 in 1983 with arm problems.
Meanwhile, Young takes over the toughest job in football. There's an old saying that you never should replace a legend. Young isn't another Montana. That's no disgrace because nobody else is, either, but he's the unfortunate soul who's got to try to live up to his legacy.
The way things are going for the Washington Redskins, Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys should be wary. He's supposed to line up against the Redskins in their second game, and the quarterbacks who were due to face them in their first and third games -- Rodney Peete of the Detroit Lions and Timm Rosenbach of the Phoenix Cardinals -- are ailing.
rTC Unless Peete returns by next week, the Redskins will face Erik Kramer and Tom Tupa in their first and third games.
Even coach Joe Gibbs should have trouble worrying about them. But Gibbs will find a way.
Stan Gelbaugh, the former University of Maryland quarterback who was Most Valuable Player of the first World League of American Football season, didn't get a long look by the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
Gelbaugh was cut after four days without taking a snap with the offense. He just ran the scout team.
"I just took up a spot at the lunch table," he said. "I guess they brought me in because I was available and it didn't cost them anything but a week's training camp salary."
Gelbaugh also spent two weeks in Canada with the Hamilton team, but left because the club's offer was so low that he didn't want to risk getting an injury.
Gelbaugh will help former Maryland teammate Tony Edwards, an assistant coach with the Watkins Mill High School team in Montgomery Village, and hopes to do some substitute teaching until the WLAF season starts next year.
The NFL delayed a decision on the WLAF's future until Sept. 12 at a meeting in Dallas last week. The owners want to meet with the TV executives before giving it a go-ahead, but Gelbaugh is confident the league will operate next year.
"If they were going to shut it down, they would have done it last week," he said.