Simms deserves patience and respect

I’ll admit, I wasn’t a believer at first. In fact, you could have gone as far as calling me a hater.

But now? No, sir.

Not after Chris Simms’ gutty performance against a very talented Atlanta Falcons football team on Sunday — an Atlanta team that may, overall, be better than the Buccaneers.I can honestly say that Simms is the right man for the job. Even more so than Brian Griese.

And do you know why I’ve changed my tune?

It’s because the man has the potential to be a really good quarterback. Simms doesn’t have enough games under his belt to be scrutinized by the critics (myself included) one way or another, but with each game he seems to be settling in more and making the right decisions. And that is exactly what the Bucs need. By not giving up turnovers, and making the smart play on third down, it will enable Cadillac Williams to score that late touchdown or give Matt Bryant the chance to make that game-winning kick.

The first game in which Simms started after the Griese injury was, to say the least, awful. He looked — pardon the cliche — like he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Simms was throwing passes that fell way short of his receivers, gave up a couple terrible interceptions and looked genuinely uncomfortable in his role as leader of the offense.

The one thing you must remember — that was his first start of the season for the Bucs. It takes a little time before you start to feel the flow of things. He obviously didn’t feel any kind of rhythm in the 49ers game.

In the following game against Carolina, Simms played better, but the boys in pewter still came up short. Simms threw for 259 yards and one touchdown to Joey Galloway, but the Panthers’ defense was all over the field and took one of Simms’ passes the other way for a touchdown.

You can’t really blame that loss on Simms, though. The Carolina defense can make any team, or quarterback for that matter, look stupid.

The third start for Simms was his breakthrough game. He threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner to Edell Shepherd with only a minute remaining on the clock. Of course, you know the story from there — Mike Alstott barrels in for two and “BUCS WIN! BUCS WIN!”

That was a great game for the son of Phil Simms — who, by the way, defended his son after Steve Young questioned Chris’ toughness, saying he was brought up in a “soft environment.”

But the game against the Falcons was the clincher for this guy. There were no Vick-like breathtaking plays or spectacular touchdowns — just heady, all-around sound decisions that resulted in a Buccaneer victory.

There will be plenty of negativity from the fans if Simms and the Bucs don’t win this Sunday against the Chicago Bears. A major argument against Simms is that he could never win the big game in college, and that same argument, while still early, could end up applying to him now.

Excu-u-u-u-use me, but there are quite a few quarterbacks in the pros that didn’t do diddly-squat in their college careers. Peyton Manning, for example, had great statistics when he played for the Tennessee Volunteers, but could never win the big game against the Florida Gators. Brett Favre didn’t really do anything in his college years, or when he was with the Atlanta Falcons either.

So, here’s my point: Chris Simms might have a terrible NFL career, never do anything for the Bucs, get traded and live out his life in obscurity.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

And right now, honestly, I’m starting to believe.