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In today’s NFL, it is common practice to release talented players due to having to get under the salary cap.  But this wasn’t always the case.  The salary cap wasn’t implemented until 1994.  Before that teams would be able to hold on to their draft picks for much longer. When the 1993 season came to an end, it took only a few months for the Giants to make their first salary cap cut, that came as a shock to the entire fan base.

On June 16, 1994 the New York Football Giants released Quarterback Phil Simms, who had been with the team for 15 years.

I could only imagine the shock this fan base went through 19 years ago.  Phil Simms was coming off of a Pro Bowl season and a year in which the Giants went 11-5.  So why would the Giants release their starting quarterback coming off of a season with such success?  A lot of the same reasons we see good players cut today.  Phil Simms was 38 years old and had just gotten shoulder surgery in March of 1994. A veteran QB like Simms getting shoulder surgery heading into his 16th season would obviously raise some eyebrows. This combined with the fact that Simms was accounting for $2.325 million dollars (chump change today) against the Giants salary cap led to the Giants making the extremely difficult decision to release the greatest Quarterback they had ever known up to that point.

So was it worth it?

As I said earlier, Phil Simms was a Pro Bowler in 1993!  It isn’t like he was playing like an old man; he was playing some of the best ball of his career.  But the Giants did have Dave Brown and Kent Graham behind Simms.  The Giants knew Simms’s career would soon be coming to an end in 1992, which is why they spent an 8th round pick on Graham and used the 1st overall pick in the supplemental draft on Dave Brown. The Giants felt it was the right time to start a new era at Quarterback.  This proved to be a bad decision.  Dave Brown and Kent Graham never panned out, and the 1994 season was a year the Giants may have been able to make the playoffs had they had better QB play.  Behind the poor play at QB, the Giants fielded the worst offense in the NFL in 1994. Now, would Simms have been able to continue to play at a high level?  Nobody knows for sure, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume he would have at least been able to match Brown/Graham’s production (and probably would have played better).

The Giants first salary cap casualty was a shocking one.  Phil Simms retired holding every Giants passing record.  Had he not been cut, those numbers would have been even better, and the Giants course of history in the 1990s may look a little bit different.

Salary cap cuts are often a painful thing.  Perhaps none have been more painful than the Giants first one ever.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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