Q: This franchise has been around for 85 years. Are you surprised that it took this long to have a Ring of Honor?
A: It never crossed my mind to have a Ring of Honor there. Of course, I see it at other stadiums and it's a tradition that other stadiums started, it never bothered me. It honestly never crossed my mind and when I was told about this a few days ago, of course, I was very excited and honored is not even the word to think that my name is going to be inside that stadium – it's incredible. I tell people all the time when they ask me about my playing days, I talk about them, it was truly like another life and sometimes I think back and I go, wow, I did enough to get my name inside of a stadium, it's really great.
Q: Are you going to be present on Sunday?
A: I will be in Pittsburgh. It is a one o'clock game. I do have a flight home so I'm going to be arriving somewhere hopefully at the end of the first quarter. I'm leaving an awful lot up to the fly-in schedules going into Newark…don't know how confident I feel about that, but hopefully it works out. I think it will and if it does I'll be able to get in the car, it should get to the stadium probably halfway through the second quarter. My wife is going to be down there with my daughter. I want it to work because I do want to be there.
Q: Have you done any Jets games yet? Have you been to the new stadium?
A: Yes. I did their second game against the Patriots, so I've been in the new Giants Stadium – oh, I've got to quit saying that – what's the official title? The New Meadowlands Stadium? So, yes, I was there. It was beautiful. I stood on the field during the summer one time and went, wow, what a place to throw in just because you feel like the fans are even closer to you than they were at the old Giants Stadium and it's a great sight to be on the field and of course my view from the TV booth was pretty good too. But nothing will ever replace the cold, the wind, and the hard Astroturf of Giants Stadium during my career. The Astroturf – I talk with people all the time and we laugh – I go, not only did we play on it our whole careers, we practiced on that damn thing almost every day. That's what I think of when I think of my career in the stadium, so many rough weather days, and, of course, the Astroturf.
Q: The parking lot where it is now is probably a lot softer than the field was.
A: That's just about the truth. Like all teams that are pretty good, it becomes part of who you are and I don't think that many people – and, of course, a lot of it had to do with Lawrence Taylor and some of those good defensive players that we had, no doubt – but just the elements and everything involved with Giants Stadium, not many teams looked forward to coming up here and playing. Football has changed in this degree, it used to be that we went out to warm up and the stands were really – I'm not going to say they were full, but they were half full or whatever – so just as soon as you came out to warm up, you felt that right away, wow, okay, the fans are definitely into this today. And, of course, now, you got out to warm up and there might be 100 people in the stands because everybody hangs out until the last second, but that was part of it to, really the aura or the environment. It was very unique. Didn't sense it quite like that in other places I went around the league.
Q: What is your take on this team so far this year?
A: I watch their games of course. I think that the Giants – I thought this year they were a team…transition is not the word…but I thought they had to re-identify themselves and after three games I don't think they have. They always laugh at me on Showtime because – and I guess this is true – I always see the good side to the Giants and always think they're going to pull out of it, so it's hard to get away from that, but they've made a lot of plays, but it's not falling into place in order to finish off drives or whatever it is. That's what they've got to do here in the next few weeks. We've got to find out – after about five or six weeks I always say in the NFL, you see what kind of team you've got, and now we'll see how it plays out – so I think the Giants…I'm still waiting to see them label it. What's it going to be? Is it going to be an offense that runs it somewhat and it's just going to be Eli throwing to these receivers, who I think are very talented, or is the defense – I really can't label the defense, where in years past I'd go, hey, this defensive line is just one of the best in football – so we'll see how it goes the next few weeks.
Q: Do you put much stock in the leadership as a factor or is it just how you play?
A: I think that the leadership stuff is talked about maybe too much everywhere around the league. I really believe leaders – it's always best if they're the best players on your football team. I think that there's a certain responsibility that comes with that. Usually the best players are making the money and they have to do it in a number of ways. They have to have great work ethic, they have to set a tremendous example for the other players, and, most importantly, they've got to play well on the field and when you do that…hey listen, in a good locker room, the players that are going to be looked upon and admired the most are the ones that are getting it done on the field. I've heard many general managers and coaches over the years, especially nowadays, say that with being paid comes great responsibility and I do believe that. I think that when you talk about leaders, it's really got to be a small group of guys that dominate the team and if they do, I just believe that's the best thing for all teams – not only the Giants, but all teams. It doesn't have to be words. I always loved that one… It's not about words. I've known some great leaders in my football career and watched them and they barely spoke. Just the way they went about their business, the way they carried themselves, their relationships with their teammates…it's talked about like every team has 20 guys on it, but the reality is there's only probably five that are capable of doing it and if you get three of them to really get it done, I think you've got a winning formula.
Q: When you look back on the better teams – who were the leaders on the best Giants teams that you played on. Were you one of them?
A: (This is good. Usually when I'm sitting in front of the New York writers and it brings back memories of sitting in front of my locker trying to explain to them why I played so bad…um…the winds…whatever….try not to blame the coach…it was a terrible call by Bill Parcells…I tried to overcome it, I couldn't.)
I don't know. Of course Bill Parcells always talked to me about it and…so many of those beliefs nowadays…he used to say to me things like, 'You know, Simms, if you want them to listen, you've got to show them.' In other words, you've got to play well, you've got to prepare, you've got to be the hardest working guy – everything that you would think. I'll never forget: One offseason, I was going into the film room – I had a few films and a note pad. I was going to write some notes down about myself and what I had seen in the previous year. He came up and told me a story about work and he said, 'Even if you don't want to do it during the offseason, come down here anyway.' He goes, 'I want you to walk around the locker room and everywhere, let everybody see that you've got all the tapes and that pad, and you go in that room and you shut it and you lock it. I don't care if you watch those films or you lay down and sleep for four hours. I don't care. But when you come out, I want everybody to see that you've been in there for hours so that all of those people will believe that at least you're doing the work to get ready to play. And if you do that, then they'll go, Well, hell, if he's doing it, then I better do it, too.' So, it was about perception – that's what he was trying to tell me. Of course, I didn't go in there and sleep, but in all of my career – high school, college, and the pros – I never stood up one time and said a word in front of the team. That wasn't my style. I just tried to work hard. But I was on the field and I wasn't afraid to give my opinions to teammates – to receivers, to offensive linemen – and as I look back, I just can't believe that one of them didn't punch me after some of the things I've said. I think of Bart Oates really – he's the first one that comes to my mind always and I say it – I yelled at Bart so much and he would take it and he'd look at me and he'd say, 'Well Phil, you're right but about the right tackle. That's not me.' I said, 'Bart, I don't have time to go yell at everybody, you go fix it.' And he'd go, 'Okay, okay. I'll get it straightened out.' It's interesting for a quarterback to do some of these things than any other position on the field just because I think they all realize that if the quarterback plays well, they have a better chance of winning.
Q: What has been different with the Giants defense lately?
A: I just think that when the Giants won the Super Bowl – that year and almost the whole year after it – when I watched them play, it was about as close to bringing back memories as I can…they come to me, in other words. I usually don't think back – oh, they remind me of us – but their offensive and defensive lines were just, at times, so dominant that I go: Wow, that truly is the Giants tradition – just to be big, physical, and just grind people up, just wear them down. They'll hang in there and fight for a while, but are they willing to fight for the whole four quarters and that's what I saw when I watched them. Of course, I don't quite see that now. I do see glimpses of it. I watched Eli Manning get great protection at times this past Sunday against a defensive front that I thought was as good as anybody in football – the Tennessee Titans – and the defensive line, sometimes I see them make plays and I go: Boy, it's there. That's the great thing about football – every year you've got to fight and just start almost all over and you just keep working and you hope somewhere early in the year it kind of comes together and you identify what you want to be that year and then you set out and try to get that done.
I really can't say that they're not getting enough pass rush, that the D tackle's not getting penetration – I'm not going to go into it in depth like that. When I still look at the team though, I look at some of those defensive linemen and I think that they do have the ability or the prospects of being pretty dominant.
Q: Eli Manning has six interceptions – five of them off of his receivers' hands. As a quarterback, what does that do to you mentally? Do you want to go choke the receiver? Do something better yourself? Or do you just figure that it will pass?
A: Well, of course, you'd like to go out there and scream at them – oh my gosh! I say it all the time, numbers lie in the NFL, especially in this day and age when you talk about quarterbacks…oh this guy is really accurate – well, hell, he hasn't thrown a ball more than five yards down the field…we're going to judge it on that? I'll say a couple of things. One, Eli – I see it every year or just about every year – after three games he's throwing it better than I've ever seen him throw the football. It's coming out of there clean and it comes off of his hand, he's going, I'm throwing it where I want it to go. Now it's all about the decision and I think he's had enough success, he's been in the league long enough that none of that bothers him. You've just got to sit back there and you've got to keep throwing it. It is unlucky. Think of last night's game. It is true that Jay Cutler could have thrown five interceptions last night and instead he ended up just throwing one and somewhat became the hero of the game because he threw a bad ball down the right sideline where he got pass interference. You'd like to think – I always did as a quarterback – that when it's all said and done and when the year's over, they'll drop a few too before it's over.
To answer one more thing, I look at the Giants and that receiving corps and Eli and I think that they have a chance. They can be really, really good.
Q: What's holding them back right now then?
A: It's only three games, so it doesn't make the season. Fourteen days ago, Mark Sanchez was arguably the weakest link on the New York Jets and fourteen days later, he might be the strength of their team. We all judge too quickly – I'm in the business, I do it too. I've turned into such a fan it's unbelievable. I'll watch a quarter of football and go, "I can't believe so and so. It's unbelievable." And then at the end of the game, he's the superstar and I'll go, "Yeah, there he is, I thought he'd come around." So, what's holding them back? Lots of little things, but like I said about the game – football is incredible. You don't know what you are…You always have a lot of thoughts going into the season, but you have to see how the NFL has changed, how your team has changed just a little bit, and what it's done to what you want to become. When it's all said and done, the Giants, of course, are going to try to run, but when I look at it – just from the offensive side – I think it's going to come down to the efficiency of Eli Manning throwing it and how these receivers…how much they move forward. I think that everybody agreed that the number of plays that they are making, it's a lot. It's like the great point guard – yeah, he's making a lot of assists, but, man, he's turning it over for every assist that he makes, but the line is, learn to get those assists and cut down on the turnovers. That really explains the Giants right now – on both sides of the ball.
Q: You'll go back to cover the Jets and when you go back, your name won't be up there. Will that be weird?
A: Well, I didn't think of that. What do they do? They take them down or they cover them up? Well, what I will do…I have an unbelievable high number of friends that work at the stadium, so when we go do a Jets game, somehow mine is still going to be up there. That would be great!
I don't know. Listen – it's not going to bother me one way or the other. It really isn't. I'm just glad that it's going up there this Sunday night. I think when I heard about it I even stood at the table here and my wife said something and she goes, "Wow, that's really neat," and I said, "Yeah, it's unbelievable, isn't it? They're going to put my name up in the stadium!" It really is an honor. I'm very excited about it. A couple of things: I'm glad we don't have to say a word. Two, it'll be good just to come down and feel the atmosphere at a Giants game – it's a night game, too. That's going to make it great. It's going to be fun to see some old teammates and just enjoy it.