Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 20, 2006
(See also: Simms's misery has company)
By Cold, Hard Football Facts senior writer John Dudley
On each new season of reality shows like American Idol and America's Next Top Model, contestants must compete to claim the title.
In the NFL, the search for America's Next Great Quarterback happens every year, but the winner is often predetermined.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts try to tune out hype in favor of the crystal-clear reception provided by statistical data. But there is no denying the near-universal acclaim that has been accorded some unproven players. In particular, it seems as if a panel of pigskin "pundits" gets assembled in the offseason to anoint the next star signal caller.
Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms was their overwhelming choice for 2006. Throughout the summer, the word most associated with him was "breakout." Here are just five of the many examples:
- "Quarterback Chris Simms seems poised for a breakout season." – Neil Hayes, MSNBC
- "Simms, in fact, could emerge as a breakout player in 2006." – Len Pasquarelli, ESPN
- "The Bucs clearly are expecting stardom for Simms, and this should be his breakout season." – Matt Pitzer, USA Today
- "I really think Simms is heading toward a breakout season in '06." – Chris Neubauer, Pro Football Weekly
- "The more and more I watch quarterback Chris Simms, the more and more I come away impressed. There's a good chance he could be the breakout passer in the league this year." – Pete Prisco, CBS SportsLine
Of course, when Prisco is involved, there's a much better chance that "hack hives" will break out. The more and more he writes, the less and less he offers. Broken clocks and TV weathermen are right more often than he is.
But the rest of these presumed authorities, representing some of the country's most respected sources of sports information, are equally guilty of confusing promise with production. There have always been high expectations for Simms, partly because his dad, Phil, was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Giants. Yet there have been no real indications that the younger Simms is realizing his potential. In predicting that he soon will, the media has at least been premature, if not flat-out wrong.
It's not the first time unreasonable hype has preceded Simms. The same thing happened at the University of Texas, too. Longhorns quarterback Major Applewhite was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. He holds every major Texas passing record. But Applewhite was forced to take a backup role behind Simms as a junior and senior. It remains a sore point for many Texas football fans.
Here in 2006, the numbers for Simms are not pretty. Through two games, he has thrown six interceptions and no touchdowns. His passer rating is a putrid 40.0. He has led the 0-2 Buccaneers to exactly three points, the lowest total of any team in the league.
The voice of reason
Amid all of the Simms hype, there was at least one outlet – and perhaps only one – that gripped this pigskin topic with its fingers on the laces of reality. The Cold, Hard Football Facts wondered whether the Buccaneers should be relying so heavily on someone who "has started a mere 12 regular-season games." We even suggested that veteran Jay Fiedler might be "the team's best option at the quarterback position."
The Bucs had signed Fiedler as a free agent, but his surgically repaired shoulder didn't heal enough for him to practice or play. The team released him late in training camp with the idea that they would bring him back once he was healthy. The St. Petersburg Times now reports that Fiedler is expected to undergo exploratory surgery on that shoulder, further delaying his possible return.
Our other knock on Simms was how he looked in the playoffs: "In his only postseason appearance, a 17-10 loss to Washington last year, Simms passed for just 198 yards and had two costly interceptions. The first one happened deep in Tampa territory, leaving the Redskins six yards away from the touchdown that would open the scoring. The second pick came with a minute remaining, sealing the defeat."
We astutely noted that, "counting the playoffs, Simms has thrown more career interceptions (12) than touchdowns (11)." His TD/INT ratio is now an even-uglier 11/17, and he has been picked off eight times since his last touchdown pass.
Unfortunately, interceptions are only part of the problem. Simms has routinely been delivering the ball late and missing open receivers. On Sunday, he badly overthrew Ike Hilliard on what should have been an easy touchdown. He is also getting an inordinate number of passes tipped at the line of scrimmage.
This season, Simms is approaching ignominious territory – though it's doubtful he'll reach the quarterbacking depths of former Tampa starter Randy Hedberg, who actually posted a 0.0 career passer rating in the NFL.
Simms is, however, languishing at or near the bottom of most statistical categories. His passer rating is third-worst in the league, and he has thrown two more interceptions than anyone else.
In time, Simms may well turn out to be a very good NFL quarterback. But the cart of expectation shouldn't be put before the horse of achievement.
It's equally possible that he will never reach the star level that so many "pundits" have been predicting.
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