“When Bill was named head coach I could tell he was different from most head coaches I had dealt with. There was just more personality involved. He definitely talked to players more than most coaches that I had been associated with.”
In 1983, Parcells selected Scott Brunner as the Giants’ starting quarterback over Simms after a training camp competition.
“I know that he favored Scott, but being young and all of that, I didn’t care. You always think as a player it doesn’t matter and you’ll overcome it. There were instances I went home and said, ‘This is so biased it’s beyond belief.’ But I knew that and as I’ve said many times, really it was almost a good thing that it was, because it played itself out and probably ended up helping me.”
The Giants were 3-12-1 in Parcells’s first season.
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“He probably was able to create the true line between him and the players, which maybe he didn’t do that the first year. He just started acting the way he wanted to act. I’m not going to say the pressure was off. The pressure to win was great, of course. I think we all feel better when we just do it our way. There had to be a sense of calmness to him with the fact he could go, ‘I’m just being me now.’ Because that’s what it was. He really was just himself.”
Simms was named the starting quarterback in 1984 after beating out Jeff Rutledge in training camp.
“As much as I thought ’83 was rigged, ’84 was rigged, too. Nobody said anything to me, but you just know and they wanted me to be the guy, so things worked out quickly in practice and in the preseason. I think they named me the starter after Week 2 of the preseason. We played the Steelers in the last preseason game and I didn’t throw a pass to Zeke Mowatt. I said, ‘He’s covered,’ and I can remember this like it was yesterday. Parcells goes, ‘Simms, you got to remember, when he’s covered he’s really open.’ That was his big thing. I tell quarterbacks in the league things that Bill would say to me and I know they don’t believe it. He’d say, ‘You have to take more chances. Don’t worry. You’re going to make a mistake. Don’t try to be perfect.’
“His greatest line to me ever was during the opening game in 1984 and we’re walking out of the locker room. He said, ‘If you don’t throw two interceptions today, you’re not taking enough chances.’ If a coach said that now, they’d be struck by lightning. Coaches say, ‘Turnovers are the biggest cause of winning and losing in the NFL. I want our team to take a lot of chances and be very dynamic, but we can’t turn the ball over.’ It’s funny. That wasn’t part of the mantra with him then and God, did I make some of the most unbelievable turnovers in history. I’d come to the sidelines and he would be so mad he couldn’t even talk and he would just hold it in and go, ‘Okay, it’s alright. That’s what I’m telling you. Take some chances.’ He’d say it through clenched teeth. Hey, you’re the one who told me to take chances, big guy. It was unbelievable looking back to think how brazen and how it is just so not like anything we hear or see now. In practice sometimes I’d throw the ball and complete it for five or six yards and they’d literally stop practice and yell at me. ‘Why are you throwing it there?’ Well, because the guy down the field was covered. ‘Hell, give him a chance. What are you worried about? Your completion percentage? Your quarterback rating?’ It just was a different thought process back then.
Parcells was constantly putting pressure on Simms in practice.
“Every day. There were very few days where it wasn’t the end of the world. I say that and I don’t know how else to explain it. Every practice was the end of the world. Today has got to be a great day. If it’s not the greatest day, oh my gosh, he would stress even more the whole next day about the practice from the day before. The only time he didn’t really pressure us was when one of two things happened. One, he would pout sometimes and not talk to anybody. It wasn’t very often, but a couple of times he would do silent Bill and just stand there and not say a word to anybody. And then sometimes, especially for me, if I was really, really struggling, he would be very careful with how he treated me in practice, too.
“When I struggled, he’d back off. The better you played, the harder he would be on you. There’s a madness to it, because self-satisfaction and all of those things creep into you when you’re playing well. In sports the desperate team and desperate player is the guy to look out for. How do you do that to players who are playing well and winning? You have to somehow create a false sense of insecurity or whatever. I guess just keeping them on edge, and that’s what he tried to do. Listen, we beat the 49ers, 49-3, in a playoff game. He was absolutely out of control the next day in the meetings, just complaining about things that went wrong, that we were misled and the score didn’t tell the truth and all this stuff about the game. I didn’t sit there and go, ‘This is an act.’ It was real. He immediately went into attack mode after that game was over to keep everybody on edge and know what was in front of us. I’m not exaggerating. I got it. I felt it.
“After Super Bowl XXI - I’m not going to say what he said to me, but he just said some things to me and it was probably one of the few times that he quit being the coach for a few minutes and said some things that I’ll never forget.
“Bill liked confrontation. He liked adversity, friction, all the words you can come up with. That’s how he grew up and how he was coached probably his whole life and for most of his life that’s how he coached. Lawrence (Taylor), Carl Banks. He’d ride Joe Morris, Maurice Carthon, O.J. Anderson, all the offensive linemen; everybody was basically on that list. It was endless and those guys were all allowed to say things back to him when the time was appropriate. Here’s what’s amazing. Those confrontations and all of these things, he never took it personal. He never held it against anybody.
“I’ve never known a coach ever to be like that. I said things to him. He never held it against me. There were times you’d say things and you’d go home and you’d go, ‘Oh my God, I finally did it.’ And then the next day it was like it never happened. He might make fun of it. ‘You really hated me there didn’t you? How much did you hate me?’ And then you go, ‘Wow. What is wrong with this coach?’
“I never held anything he said to me against him, because he never really made it as personal as all the players did against him. He was always just doing it as the coach and trying to create an atmosphere where you’d perform better.
“My relationship with Bill now is good. We talk about everything. We always laugh. Believe it or not, we text every once in a while. I think that’s hilarious.
“It’s nice. I don’t know if it changes a lot. I think it still stays the same. That line is still there. It is with me. If I got on the phone with Ron Erhardt, I’d feel like I was sitting in the back meeting room in Giants Stadium still. He was still the coach and most of the time I listened.
“Bill is my friend, but he is still my coach. Absolutely. I don’t think that ever changes. I really mean it. It’s almost the same as a father and son relationship. As I grew up and as I was a so-called man, my relationship with my father was he’s still my father. No matter what. No matter what we say to each other and laugh a little bit more. But those relationships, I don’t know if that hierarchy ever changes.”