Simms settles at wheel for Giants' stretch drive

THE BALTIMORE SUN

He Is Fresh and Everyone Else Is Tired.

John Lindsay ran a successful campaign for mayor of New York on that slogan a quarter-century ago, and now it could be the rallying cry for a New York quarterback.

The back injury that Jeff Hostetler suffered last week accomplished what coach Ray Handley refused to do on his own -- it put Phil Simms back into the Giants starting lineup.

The timing couldn't have been better if Handley planned it that way, which he obviously didn't. But Handley's mishandling of the quarterback situation this year might work out well for the Giants in the long run.

At 36, it's uncertain if Simms still can handle the rigors of a full season. But he doesn't have to do that now. He just has to take the Giants (7-5) on a stretch-run drive for a playoff berth.

He proved he still could play last Sunday, when he drove the Giants 90 yards in the final two minutes, throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Baker with 16 seconds left to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 21-14.

He'll get a chance to tune up today against the Cincinnati Bengals before he faces the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins and the Houston Oilers in the final three games.

He also could add some drama to the season. Until he came back, the Redskins were seemingly on an unstoppable drive to the Super Bowl. They are virtually a lock to get home-field advantage in the playoffs. Who can beat them at RFK Stadium in the playoffs?

How about Simms? He's 9-1 in his past 10 starts against the Redskins and 4-1 in his past five starts at RFK. Maybe he can't do it again, but nobody is going to count him out.

Simms is a leader who rallies his teammates. As O.J. Anderson JTC said last Sunday, "I saw the master and the king of the throne recrowned."

His teammates also had to be impressed with how stoic Simms was when he was benched. He never complained. He never pouted. Can you imagine Eric Dickerson or Jerry Rice handling the same situation that well?

When he came back last Sunday, he didn't gloat. Instead, he insisted he hadn't handled the situation as well as everybody said he did. He gave a glimpse of how tough it was for him.

"A lot of you guys write, 'Oh, I've been good.' Listen, I haven't been that good. It's been hard. I don't lie to anybody that it hasn't been hard," he said.

The New York fans, who were always quick to boo Simms, also may get a chance finally to appreciate how good he's been over the years.

As general manager George Young said: "Phil Simms leads the league in boos at Giants Stadium. Sadly, he has never gotten the recognition he deserves for what he has done for this team."

He may get it now. This might be his victory tour.

The stop at RFK Stadium in two weeks could be a memorable one.

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Young is spending a lot of his time lately defending his coach, Handley, for his erratic dealings with the media. When Handley said a week ago that the press was a big problem, Young pointed out how cooperative Handley had been with the media.

When Handley walked out of a news conference on Monday when he was asked if Simms will keep the quarterback job when Hostetler heals, Young again rushed to his defense.

"The question that was asked wasn't a question. That's an issue. I've been listening to this nonsense for years. The press think they are the story. The story is the game, the players and the coaches. That's the story, not the press. Every time we win, we can't have a victory. Every time we have a victory, there's something wrong," Young said.

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Although the Cincinnati Bengals haven't made an announcement, the word on the agents' grapevine is that former Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason quietly has signed a new deal at $3 million a year.

That would make him the third- or fourth-highest paid player in pro football behind Dan Marino and Joe Montana, depending on how you figure it. Warren Moon of the Houston Oilers is making $3.033 million this year, because his contract calls for him to get a raise from his $1.5 million base to the average of the top three quarterbacks if he finishes in the top three in quarterback ratings. But his overall package average is $2.3 million when you divide his $1.533 million bonus over the five years of the contract.

The Oilers and Moon had a hard time even agreeing on what the average for the top three quarterbacks is, because the NFL no longer sends copies of the player contracts to the NFL Players Association and some of the contracts have confidentiality clauses.

Assuming that Esiason did jump into the $3 million club, there are 10 players in the league whose packages average $2 million or more. The curious thing is that only one team has two of them. That's Indianapolis with Jeff George and Dickerson. Only the Colts could be 1-11 with two $2 million players.

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When Ron Wolf was named general manager of the Green Bay Packers last week, Lindy Infante all but became a lame-duck coach.

Infante has a 23-37 record as Packers head coach, but a victory turned out to be his undoing.

When Green Bay upset the Phoenix Cardinals, 26-17, late in the 1988 season, the Packers lost the first pick in the draft. That cost the Packers Troy Aikman, who went to Dallas, and general manager Tom Braatz then picked Tony Mandarich over Barry Sanders.

If the Packers had gotten either Aikman or Sanders, Braatz likely would still be the GM, and Infante would be safe.

Because Wolf formerly worked for the Raiders and former Giants coach Bill Parcells is close to Raiders boss Al Davis, the Parcells-to-Green Bay rumors popped up last week. Meanwhile, Parcells branded as a lie a report that he's already opened talks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It doesn't matter whether the talks have actually taken place with the Buccaneers. If they haven't, they will.

Robert Fraley, Parcells' agent, convinced Parcells to quit last May because he figured a lot of jobs would be open this year. Fraley will try to use the clubs against each other to boost the bidding. He wants to get close to $2 million a year for Parcells.

Besides the Packers and Buccaneers, the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams figure to be looking for new coaches, and the situations in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are up in the air.

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The Washington Redskins could suffer a setback if assistant coach Richie Petitbon, who runs their defense, gets a head-coaching job. There are rumors that the Rams are interested in him. Two of coach Joe Gibbs' offensive assistants, Dan Henning and Joe Bugel, have left for head coaching jobs, but Gibbs pretty much runs his own offense. By contrast, Gibbs has little input in the defense. Petitbon has free hand in that department, and he would be hard to replace.

Boomer's big bucks

Bengals QB Boomer Esiason reportedly has signed a new contract that puts him among the elite money-makers in the NFL. Here's where he fits in the league's top 10:

1. Dan Marino, Miami: $4.34 million

2. Joe Montana, S.F.: $3.25 million

3. Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati: $3 million

4. Jim Kelly, Buffalo: $2.864 million

5. Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia: $2.563 million

6. Jeff George, Indianapolis: $2.5 million

7. Jim Everett, L.A. Rams: $2.4 million

8. Bernie Kosar, Cleveland: $2.329 million

9. Warren Moon, Houston: $2.3 million

10. Eric Dickerson, Indianapolis: $2.2 million.

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