Handley, known for his intelligence, shows it in his first decision

THE BALTIMORE SUN

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.

More Giants:

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.

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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.

Jacksonville even gave away tickets to military personnel as part of a salute to Desert Storm troops to boost its crowd for an exhibition game last night between the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons.

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More expansion derby:

Baltimore is No. 1 in the expansion derby. Let them quote that in St. Louis.

OK, it's No. 1 in alphabetical order. You take No. 1 where you can get it. Here are the cities -- in alphabetical order -- that have applied for the expansion forms: Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Oakland, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; St. Louis and San Antonio. The other city that asked for a form is -- believe it or not -- Fayetteville, Tenn.

The only surprise is that Sacramento, Calif., hasn't yet applied, but it apparently plans to.

Jacksonville suffered an image blow last week when Arthur "Chick" Sherrer, the head of Touchdown Jacksonville, resigned after being accused of solicitation of prostitution on July 26. He maintains his innocence on the misdemeanor charge and may rejoin the group if he's cleared.

But since he wasn't the proposed owner -- Jacksonville officials are still negotiating with potential owners -- his departure may

not have a major effect on the city's chances.

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The Philadelphia Eagles had their prayer circle with the Buffalo Bills after their game in London last Sunday, which appeared to be a violation of the NFL's rule that the teams leave the field "promptly" after the game.

Keith Byars of the Eagles said: "We'll see what happens. But it doesn't matter what they try to do because we're going to continue to keep doing it."

The NFL has decided that fining players for praying wouldn't exactly be a public relations coup and now says that its definition of the word "promptly" allows the prayer circles.

Jim Finks, the New Orleans Saints general manager who heads the competition, still maintains prayer circles aren't supposed to be allowed, but it's a moot point because the NFL isn't going to try to stop them.

Incidentally, a woman ran on the field topless during the game. The NFL may have to come up with a rule to cover that.

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Now that the players have convinced coach Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins to drop his opposition to a game in Europe if the team is invited, it'll be interesting to see if the Gibbs can be convinced to do it a second time.

Gibbs is such a creature of habit and routine that he's unlikely to accept the disruption of training camp that will be caused by the trip. Gibbs will take Carlisle, Pa., over London any day.

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Harold Henderson, the NFL's new director of labor relations, has started his training camp tour trying to convince the players that getting a collective bargaining agreement is preferable to the legal strategy.

He's already talked to the Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Giants and will visit Texas to talk to the Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys this week.

Henderson feels the players are listening to him, but don't be surprised if the NFLPA is in the courtroom Feb. 17 for the free agency trial and not at the settlement table.

Being an NFL owners' son has its advantages. One of them is being able to assert his authority.

Tim Bidwill, the son of Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, wanted two San Diego sportswriters to stand in the end zone during a Chargers-Cardinals scrimmage.

"Do you know who I am? Are you questioning my authority?" he barked when they tried to move around to see the action.

Now there's a young man who takes himself seriously. He should worry more about the Cardinals' draft blunders.

Their No. 1 pick, Eric Swann, underwent arthroscopic surgery for the second time last week. He's the defensive lineman the Cardinals drafted sixth in the draft even though he never played college and some teams flunked him on his physical because of his knee.

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