Here’s My Stop!

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December 5, 2001
Here’s My Stop!
by Keith Weiland

Anybody still left on the Chris Simms bandwagon? If I was ever on it, I’m certainly off of it now. And you should be, too.

P’shaw, some might say. Such a knee-jerk reaction to one poor game, others would contend. Oh, the strong arm, the height, and… oh my, the bloodlines.

Phooey, I say.

Chris Simms has shown his talent on several occasions, but I’m here to ask you to look past the blinding burnt orange light and those impressive five letters sewn on the back of his jersey. Chris Simms possesses all the potential, talent, and size that a Pro Bowl NFL quarterback would ever need, but he lacks that something extra. It’s what the French (or more specifically, Dr. Evil) may call a certain I don’t know what.

That certain something Simms is lacking was never more apparent than in the first half of the Big XII Championship Game held in Dallas on December 1st. There Simms cowered, after having fumbled once and thrown three interceptions, standing on the sideline like a kid who had just lost his sucker – and by sucker I mean, collectively, the UT fans hopeful that Simms would carry them to a Rose Bowl berth – eyes glossy, hands on his hips. Simms held the gaze of someone who had just been half-nelsoned by his grandmother.

Simms had not yet left the game, but he had already given up. He would soon knick his left throwing hand and whimper out to the sideline for a nap and warm cocoa. Okay, he reportedly dislocated a finger, but it did come at a really convenient time.

Next to Simms was his backup, Major Applewhite, rallying the troops, down by like eighty thousand points, still eager for the fight. Applewhite was yelling at his team to keep chins up and helmets strapped. Simms stood idly by and watched his backup do his job. It’s why Applewhite will be starting the Holiday Bowl against the Washington Huskies in three weeks and not Simms.

I’m sure Simms is a nice guy, but he never reminded me more of Jeff George and Ryan Leaf than at that moment. George and Leaf, textbook examples of anti-franchise quarterbacks and early pick busts, are guys that have all the skills to make it in the NFL, but have failed to capitalize on those skills because they rely on them too much. There is a lack of maturity present with these two that is also still present, though maybe not as fleshed out, with Simms.

It is a downside to Simms’ recent ancestry that seems to be a built-in expectation for greatness. Confidence is important to a quarterback, so I don’t intend to overlook it here, but Simms’ nickname is "Prince" for crying out loud.

When Simms toyed with reporters in November that he would listen to the notion of declaring for next year’s draft, leaving Texas a year early in the process, gurus and fans wore purple leather pants and belted out I Would Die 4 U. And why wouldn’t they? Since a loss to Oklahoma two months ago, Simms had played magnificently leading up to the post-Thanksgiving tussle with the rival Aggies of Texas A&M, another big game in which Simms was rather unimpressive.

Simms has improved his mechanics since early in the season, and the results have been fewer interceptions and fewer deflected passes. For a quarterback as tall as Simms, I had never seen so many balls thrown into the mitts of defensive lineman than he had during the first half of the season. The slight change in his arm motion seems to have corrected that flaw. If nothing else, it is evidence that Simms is willing to adapt to better skilled opponents.

Still, Simms has yet to prove he has what it takes to lead his team in big game situations. Until the loss to Colorado, I was ready to defend Simms’ previous losses on other contributing factors. Last year’s Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon? Darn those frosh receivers dropping the balls Simms carefully tossed into the endzone. This year’s loss to OU? Too conservative of an offensive gameplan by Head Coach Mack Brown and his staff. But Colorado? This one was different.

Peyton Manning, another second-generation quarterback, had the knock on him while he was at Tennessee that he couldn’t win the big one. It had no impact on his draft status, as the Colts still took him first overall in 1998. They have not regretted it since, nor should they. Manning still has potential, but should it really be a surprise that his coach, Jim Mora, had to publicly criticize Manning to light a fire underneath him?

Simms may also be the first player selected in the draft, even in 2002 if he so chooses, but it should not be the Texans who take him if he does declare. Interestingly, Tennessee won a National Championship in its first year after Manning left for the NFL. Might the same happen for the Longhorns once Simms leaves?

A knock on Simms does not necessarily elevate Applewhite’s draft status, so don’t carry this too far. Applewhite will be a nice late draft pick or post-draft free agent signing for some NFL team – who knows, maybe even Houston? – but he will have to fight for his NFL life to hold a backup spot on any roster next August. Simms’ play, however, makes Fresno State’s David Carr look better and better all the time.

Simms still has time on his side, and he may one day find his way toward winning a Super Bowl, just like dear old dad did back in the 20th century. The Texans, however, will be better off finding themselves a leader at the quarterback position, a gamer willing to fight when the odds are stacked against him, not just another kid who relies on a genetically-certified rocket launcher for an arm.

Keith Weiland considered changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol for no other reason than to see how Ed McMahon would put it on a Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes letter. Chris Simms Chris Simms Home

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