Cimini: Father Phil has many Philadelphia memories. Son Matt will take his shot Thurs
PHILADELPHIA -- If Phil Simms decides to make the drive down the New Jersey Turnpike to see his youngest son's NFL debut, he'll get a ticket and try to blend into the crowd. He did that a few weeks ago during the New York Jets' training camp in Cortland, N.Y., and he went unnoticed in the top row of the bleachers.
"We'll see how he mingles with the Eagles' crowd," Matt Simms said Wednesday. "If anything, he'll go undercover and wear an Eagles cap, or something crazy like that."
Phil Simms, New York Giants icon, wasn't a popular fellow in the city of Philadelphia. But that was a generation ago, when he battled the likes of Reggie White and Jerome Brown in classic NFC East showdowns. Of course, blood is thicker than (Andre) Waters, so Simms would love to be there -- if his busy schedule allows it.
"I'm just as excited about watching as he is about playing," the elder Simms said in a phone interview.
Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow will be spectators at Lincoln Financial Field in the Jets' final preseason game, so Greg McElroy and Matt Simms will share the duties at quarterback. Simms, an undrafted rookie, hasn't played since the Aug. 4 intrasquad scrimmage in Cortland, so this is his big shot.
"I'm still here, so I'm doing well enough, I guess, to stick around," he said. "Every day is just a constant battle of learning, adapting and trying to become an NFL quarterback. It's kind of tough sometimes with limited reps, but that's just the way it goes."
Simms thinks it's cool that his first NFL action will come against the Eagles. He was too young to see his dad face those legendary defenses -- he was 5 when his father retired -- but he's heard the stories, of course. Actually, there were some tough afternoons in Philadelphia, where Phil Simms went 3-6 as a starter.
"Maybe this time around, they'll cheer for a Simms," Matt Simms said, smiling. "I doubt it, but it should be interesting. I think it's pretty exciting that my first game will be against the Eagles, especially since my dad played a lot of games against greats like Reggie White."
Since the Jets broke camp in Cortland, Simms has been living at his family's home in Franklin Lakes, N.J., but there haven't been too many father-son football chats. Simms is out early in the morning, back late at night.
They don't talk X's and O's. Phil Simms offers mostly general advice: Be sharp. Protect yourself. Make smart decisions. Have fun.
"He doesn't like to coach me too much, because he knows I'm being coached here," said Matt Simms, whose older brother, Chris, played five years in the league. "It's just normal, fatherly advice."
It has been a circuitous journey for Simms, who was heavily recruited out of high school and signed with Louisville. He transferred to El Camino (Calif.) Junior College, where he passed for 2,200 yards in 10 games. He moved on to Tennessee, where his starting record was only 2-8 in two seasons.
Simms wasn't drafted, received only a cursory look from the Giants and wound up signing with the Jets after impressing at a tryout camp. He's smart and studious, according to teammates and coaches. And he has some zip in that right arm. But the NFL is a numbers game, and it will be difficult to make the 53-man roster.
"I always tell people that my expectations are pretty realistic," said Phil Simms, still close to the game as the top game analyst for CBS Sports.
"When you have small windows, you have to be fortunate. If he gets an opportunity, it would be awesome. If not, that's to be expected.
"It could go a lot of different ways. I hope it goes well. I hope he enjoys the moment. I know he's excited about the chance to play."