It's been said that the NFL might be TV's greatest reality show. The league's immense popularity, coupled with today's never-ending media cycle, has created non-stop headlines, podcasts and talk shows discussing and debating the NFL's biggest stories.
Quarterbacks are typically the focus of articles and conversation, as writers, podcasters and TV talking heads spend countless hours discussing the legacies of the players who play league's most recognizable position. When asked which of the remaining four quarterbacks' legacies would be most altered with a win in Super Bowl LVI, former Giants quarterback and currently CBS Sports NFL analyst Phil Simms didn't hesitate. Simms pointed to the two quarterbacks playing in this weekend's NFC Championship Game.
"Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford," Simms said this week. "The 49ers hope they have this problem: What if they win the Super Bowl? Are they going to get rid of a Super Bowl quarterback? That would be interesting."
Simms has a unique understanding of the NFL media. For 14 years, he was a starting quarterback in the nation's biggest media market. Since his retirement after the 1993 season, Simms has been on the other side as a member of the media. When it comes to the narrative-driven media, Simms specifically touched on the unrealistic expectations that Stafford dealt with during his time with the Lions. Instead of getting credit for leading the Lions to the playoffs three times, Stafford was often blamed for Detroit never making it beyond the wild card round.
"I hear it all the time. All the quarterbacks that used to play in the NFL love Matt Stafford," Simms said, "and really, a lot of the media doesn't and people that talk about him. ... I followed his career and all these guys close. He lifted the team up to the playoffs because he was better than the team and he made the comebacks to get them in that position. Then they lose the game, and it's, 'Matt Stafford can't win the big one.' Please.
"Now maybe if it happened this year, if he had lost the first game, we could say that … because it is different, playoff football. But I think he's answered that question in the first two games."
Simms said that a similar, inaccurate narrative has been created in regard to Josh Allen following the Bills' overtime loss to the Chiefs in the divisional round. Despite throwing four touchdowns that included two in the game's final two minutes, fragments of the media have questioned Allen's accuracy following Buffalo's season-ending loss.
"What does he have to do to get everybody to shut up?" Simms said of Allen. "Well, I think he's done it, so I think everybody should be quiet for at least until the next game where he doesn't play well."
Fortunately for Stafford, the Rams' first-year starter played well enough to help lead the Rams past the Cardinals and Buccaneers in the first two rounds of the playoffs. He delivered in the game's biggest moment late in last Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. With the score tied and less than a minute remaining in regulation, Stafford hit Cooper Kupp for completions of 20 and 44 yards to set up Matt Gay's game-winning field goal as time expired.
Stafford would surely like to end the 2021 season the way Simms ended the 1986 season, when he took home MVP honors after helping lead the Giants to a 39-20 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. Regardless, Simms knows that some fragments of the media will find something to chew on during the long offseason.
"It's a different world now," Simms said. "We had it easy with the media. I thought the media was very fair during my whole career. There were many things written about me that were bad or how bad I was and this and that, and most of the time, it was correct. And I thought writers in New York, they treated us fairly. ... I think the biggest difference is TV. There's football shows on around the clock, and of course, the opinions vary and there's many people that are on there just to be negative, and somehow no matter what you do they're going to find the negativity, and you've got to live with that."