The Truth About Major Applewhite & Chris Simms

| by Sports Nickel

This article has long been something I needed to get in text. I don’t expect people to agree with its contents, I don’t expect them to like its reasoning. Consider in a blurb in the world at large.

The idea for this article hit me a couple years back while boozing at one of my favorite watering holes.  I’m about 3 Ziegenbach Brewster’s into my night and the awesomely wholesome looking woman that is the bartender sparks up a conversation about sports, to which, I am more than game. We start off discussing the Houston Astros and how we are both super fans. We talk football and inevitably we end up discussing the Texas Longhorns. Being the antagonist I am, I ask her what she thought about Chris Simms, to which she predictably replied, “F*** Chris Simms”.

It’s no secret Chris Simms is absolutely, wholeheartedly, maliciously, undeniably, boisterously hated in Austin, Texas amongst Longhorn fans. Something I could never understand. Matter of fact, I don’t think I have, nor could I ever hate anyone who has played for the University of Texas. But we will get into that later. I wanted to get down to the reasoning behind all the hatred for Chris Simms. I wanted to know how and why such a laid back, party all the time type fan base could turn into Eagles fans (sorry for the jab PA) with the mere mention of one persons name. How could such a beautiful bar tender go from being the sweetest thing you have experienced all day, to being a fowl mouthed sailor?

Over the years I have posed this question many of times. Most recently at work before I started typing this article I asked, “Why is Chris Simms hated so much? One of my peers replied “He is a d***”. Another replied, “There is good reason.” Most of these reasons obviously point back to Major Applewhite. Major Applewhite, Texas’ golden boy, unsung hero/underdog whose position was taken from him by the big bad Debo that is Christopher David Simms. Why? Why was such a legend’s position taken from him and replaced by an inferior talent?

Lets go back to 1998. Texas just finished 9-3 in its first season with new head coach Mack Brown. Are you there? Imagine you are from New Jersey. Imagine you are one of the most gifted quarterbacks coming out of high school in all of the United States. Imagine you are USA Today‘s National Offensive Player of the Year. Your dad is a NFL legend, so the expectations are that much more intense. The world is your oyster at 18, but you have a tough decision ahead. You have to decide where you want to play football. You can play wherever you want! Teams are pining over your potential. You are getting offers from practically every program in every major conference, Florida, Texas, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida State, Miami…. THEY ALL WANT YOU! College is supposed to be your golden years, a time you will never forget. Well, the year before, Tennessee won it all and has laid claim to 6 National Championships. They seem to have their program hitting on all cylinders, you decide Tennessee it is. Wait… you have a change of heart, something about your visits to Austin, Texas totally changed your mind. All the friendly people made you feel right at home, the fan base was the epitome of southern hospitality. You ultimately choose to enroll at Texas. Why Texas? You could have chosen to go anywhere but yet you chose a Team whose last championships were in the late 60’s and early 70’s. 
So here you are, in Austin, expectations of late have been heavy and you are expected to win at all cost. Failure is not an option. You will be held to the said expectations and if you fail to achieve them, then you are subject to boo’s, mistreatment and the harshest of ridicule, unless your name is Major.

*Simms held the Texas school record for highest Career Pass Efficiency (138.4) till surpassed by Colt

Chris Simms was one of the most heralded QB’s coming out of high school and took a leap of faith and chose the Texas Longhorns over all the other elite programs in the Nation. In the 90’s, elite players were not clamoring to come play football for John Mackovic, whose tenure as Texas’ head coach was mediocre at best. Simms was the first of elite high school prospects to believe in what Mack Brown was selling.

So lets get into why most Texas fans hate Simms. I recently posed this question on my facebook, here are some of the comments I received.

*Jason C. says, “Why bench the big 12 player of the year for an unproven sophomore just cause he has a name? It was painfully obvious that Applewhite was the better QB when they were splitting time, and then to top it off Mack chooses to let Simms start over Major his Sr year… Simms sucked a D in big games (top 10 teams) and he really stunk it up any time he would play OU. I pretty much still hate that dude… LOL
I just think that when Mack and CO were recruiting Simms that they might have promised him the farm to get him away from committing to Tennessee. He was the #1 recruit in the country at the time, and I’m sure Mack thought he would turn out to be a much better QB than he was. Some of that could be attributed to poor player development, but I doubt it. Simms first pass when he and Applewhite split duties was a pick 6 the other way… He had a terrible habit of locking in on one of his WR’s (Roy Williams comes to mind) and relied too much on his arm strength. Opie on the other hand was just a bad ass… true he didn’t have a cannon for an arm, but he would put that thing on the money and could read a defense really well. His pops was a coach, and you could tell he was a student of the game. It should tell you something that Mack & Greg used to let Major call his own audible’s… something they didn’t let Simms, Mock, VY or Colt do… just saying…”

*Codey L. says, “say we all know mac got payed
cuz major was way better then simms ever thought about being. mac would have 2 ships in the case if he would of just played major applenut”

*Matt S. says “I agree with the bit about Applewhite- Major was a very underrated college QB.

My only real beef with Chris Simms is that he, like other children of former pros, got opportunities and preferential treatment that he probably didin’t deserve. If he had been Chris McGee, relative of no one who mattered, he probably wouldn’t have gotten as much playing time.”

*Eric Y. says “pretty much everything they said. I feel like the only reason Simms played at all was because of his daddy every Texas fan new Applewhite was a way better QB as evident in the bowl game against Washington when he led a comeback and won the game. And we probably would’ve won a national championship if we kept Applewhite in”

None of these opinions are ones I have not heard before, some may be valid, and some may not. Lets explore them a little more in depth.

Mack Brown had to have been influenced by NFL great Phil Simms, who was also Chris’s father, right? Wrong. I believe this is some of the most absurd reasoning I have ever heard.  Texas is a 100+ Million dollar a year revenue generator. Mack Brown has proven he is one of the best minds in college football. Under his regime he has brought Texas football back to prominence and is consistently in contention for a national championship every year. Why on earth would he allow an ex-NFL QB push him around? Why would Mack Brown care about anything Phil Simms has to say?  Texas’ has some of the most reputable, wealthiest boosters in all of college football. I highly doubt Mack put aside the best interest of the school and boosters to cater to a man that relevance dates back to the 80’s. Pardon me NY Giants Fans; Phil Simms is “a nobody” in Texas. There are several Texas boosters who can buy Phil Simms 10 times over and have more pull in our city that much of us could not fathom. Brown had more to fear from the boosters. The boosters want to win, plain and simple. I find it inconceivable Brown would risk his career and the livelihood of his family because one of his recruits’ fathers wants his son to play. If Mack Brown could be pushed around by football powers, Texas fans would all know and hate Kyle Shanahan as well. Name doesn’t ring a bell? Yes, the son of one of the most revered names in all of football, Coach Mike Shanahan, played at Texas and for the most part, rode the pine. He had D1 talent, but not enough to get significant playing time in Austin.

2000 is perhaps was the most disappointing of the 3 seasons Major started

Then there is the polarization of Major Applewhite. I would like to state I love Applewhite and think he is one of Texas’ greats. Greatest? Negative. Another knock on Simms is that he could never win the “BIG” game. Well ladies and gentleman, hate to burst your bubble, neither did Applewhite. Matter of fact, he never really got Texas to one. No doubt he was a great college football player, but he never excelled or propelled Texas to the heights one would think. The fact was Major was an opportunist. We can all agree Simms had his flaws and was nowhere near perfect, but Applewhite seemed to thrive off his role as back up/savior. Could he have played that well if starting? We will never know. It may have been possible if he did not suffer two serious knew injuries, which put Simms in the line up in the first place. There is however 3 seasons of evidence to suggest, no, no he could not. Major came into situations were Simms struggled and to his credit, played really well. That’s the last memory most have of Major on the field. The fact is both QB’s got Texas to Big 12 Championships; both lost them, one to Nebraska, one to Colorado. But was Major really that much better? Lets look at Major and his career at Texas.

In 1998 Texas finished 9-3 and finished ranked 16th

Major’s stats =174/299 for 2678 yards, 58% comp, 21 TD’s and 11 Int’s.

Major had a very decent season for a freshman, but nothing great about it. That season included losses to #6 UCLA (Major did no play), #5 Kansas State and unranked Texas Tech. Texas finished 2nd in the Big 12 South. Now keep in mind, this is a team that had a Heisman winning season from Ricky and at that time the most prolific WR corp. Texas has ever seen, a corp. that included Wane McGarity and Kwame Kavil. Seems like there were some “BIG” games lost in that season.

In 1999 Texas finished 9-5 and ranked 23rd

271/467 for 3,349, 58% comp, 21 TD’s and 9 Int’s

Major, again had a decent season. Not a great season. Texas lost to NC State, #13 Kansas State, A&M, Nebraska and Arkansas that year. So again, a disappointing season, most seem to have suppressed from their memory.

In 2000 Texas finished 9-3 and ranked 12th

152/279 for 2,164 yards, 54% comp, 18 TD’s and 7 Int’s

2000, perhaps was the most disappointing of the 3 seasons Major started, with losses to unranked Stanford (at home) and a 14-63 loss to OU. Texas was once again shut out of national and conference Championship play.

So there it is. Almost three full seasons Major started. Most of his losses were to ranked teams. So why is there not the same criticism of Major? He could not win a “BIG” game. Is it because his dad was not famous enough? Like Simms, he was human and in the grand scheme of football, wasn’t drastically better as a player.  Now, lets visit what Chris Simms career looked like.

In 2001 Texas finished 11-2 and ranked 5th

214/362 for 2,603 yards, 59% comp, 22 TD’s and 11 ints

In 2001 Texas’ had its first 11-win season since 1983. So the only loss in the regular season Chris Simms first full year as starter was to OU, 14-3. A game decided by one of the most outstanding individual plays by then OU safety Roy Williams. True, Simms had a horrid game against Colorado but seeing as he led Texas to its best season in almost 20years, I think it was ridiculous he got booed the way he did. Most people site this game as a reason to despise him. What people don’t realize, we would have never been in this game if not for Simms.

In 2002 Texas finished 11-2 and ranked 7th

235/396 for 3,207 yards, 59% comp. 26 TD’s and 12 ints

So Simms again helps Texas to its 2nd 11 win season in a row and only loss to OU and Texas Tech.

Amazing! Simms won more and was able to do something 20 years of QB’s at Texas could not. Win 11 games in a season. He also lead teams that finished ranked no lower than 7th in the nation, pretty damn decent if you ask me.

Let’s looks at some of Texas records and where Chris stands.

In 2001 Simms lead Texas to its first 11-win season since 1983

*Simms held the Texas school record for highest Career Pass Efficiency (138.4) till surpassed by someone we all can love Colt McCoy. Yes, that means he was a more efficient passer that Major. No other way to say this.

* Simms has the 4rd best winning % behind only Colt, VY and Bobby Layne. Yes, Simms won more and lost less that Major.

*Simms ranks 2nd in career touchdowns, behind only Major. So they were very close in this respect.

*2nd most TD in a single season behind Colt and tied with VY. Yes, Simms had one of the most prolific scoring seasons in Texas history.

* In their careers, only 2 TD passes separate Colt and Chris for total TD passes

It’s debatable who was the best QB while at Texas; numbers tend to supports Simms slightly. It’s not as clear-cut as everyone makes it seem. This is a TEAM sport where things on the field happen we just cannot know about. Lets also remember Major had a serious knee injury which ultimately lead to Chris taking over. It was not his Dad, it was not money or some great big whimsical conspiracy theory, it was practice and Simms being a very decent football player.
I decided to write this because the hate for Chris Simms is totally unwarranted. If you look at Texas passing records Simms is top 3 in most and is one of the most prolific passers in Texas history. This alone should demand respect. I’ve heard stories of frat idiots pelting his car with beer cups, the Big 12 Championship game where he was booed. I think its about time we show a this Texas great the respect he deserves.
I hope this article has helped you change your whole thought process of what you think happened in those “QB controversy” years. One thing is for sure; everyone has an opinion on this topic.

If you have time, please, join the site and drop a comment. Tell me what you think.

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