Phil Simms prides himself on not rushing through life, no matter how crowded his schedule gets. But by 6:20 p.m. Monday, he clearly was getting antsy.
This was at CBS Sports Network's Chelsea Piers studio, where he had spent nearly three hours on set for his latest analyst gig, on "NFL Monday QB,'' and he was due for a haircut in northern New Jersey at 7.
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Then he had a thought. Doesn't CBS' roster feature another blond, 50-something former New York quarterback who might be available as a stand-in?
"Tell Boomer [Esiason] to get in here and just suck in his gut,'' Simms said.
Moral of today's opening anecdote: Nearly two decades after retiring as a player, Phil Simms is as busy as ever and seems to be having as much fun as ever, including as the chatty Needler-in-Chief as he makes his weekly rounds.
"I grew up kibitzing,'' he said, using a word he presumably did not use when he was growing up in Kentucky. He said it is a skill he picked up in a house with eight children, and later in football locker rooms.
"It keeps the energy going. I like energy.''
He needs it.
Sunday, Oct. 14
East Rutherford, N.J.
After 15 seasons traversing the nation for CBS, an occasional "home'' game at the Meadowlands is a treat.
Simms got to spend a quiet Saturday night with his wife, Diana, watching a very long Yankees playoff game while he prepared for Colts vs. Jets. By the time Derek Jeter had been helped off the field and the Tigers had won in 12 innings, the clock already had struck game day.
"I pulled in at 9:30, which was late -- very late,'' he said in the broadcast booth at MetLife Stadium. "But I figured getting rest was more important because I hate being tired or grumpy.''
Simms' pregame routine includes appearing on Mike Francesa's radio show but not appearing on the field to speak to coaches and players, as many analysts do.
"I've already talked to everybody ,'' he said. "I don't need to say I went down and saw the assistant third-string strength coach.''
The one exception to Simms' no-rushing policy comes after games, when getting out of parking lots and onto the nearest highway (and eventually the nearest airport) is both science and art, usually with the help of stadium security.
"The pressure is, how fast can we get out?'' he said. How fast is that? "Very fast.''
There was no airport to rush to Sunday, so by 5:15, Simms was watching the Giants-49ers and Patriots-Seahawks games simultaneously. "I never get to do that,'' he said. "So it made it awesome.''
More awesomeness: After catching the Sunday night game, Simms watched a recording of Redskins-Vikings before bed.
Simms awoke at about 8:30 and by noon had reviewed every game he did not see Sunday. "It's amazing,'' he said. "By 12 o'clock you're sitting around saying, 'Gosh, I don't know what else to do.' ''
Effective last month, he has something else to do. When CBS executives approached him with the idea for a new cable show centered on its quarterbacks-turned-analysts, he initially "freaked out.''
"I like routines,'' he said. "So I was like, 'Oh, wait, I had a routine!' So the first two weeks I was really nervous about whether this would affect what I do. But what it's done is speed up my process.
"Now I'm extremely comfortable. There's such a compounding of information, I never run out of things to say.''
That is true whether the camera is on or off. During one break, he compared notes with Dan Marino on aging, from fatigue to an unexplained hair that suddenly had sprouted out of his shoulder.
While Marino, Simms and host Adam Schein sat in the studio, Steve Beuerlein and Rich Gannon appeared from their homes. Simms tried that once and hated it, naturally.
"I was stressed,'' he said. "The remote drove me nuts, being by myself. When I'm in here, I can have a little fun.''
That included spouting old Parcells-isms, making fun of Schein's booming voice and talking football, from Victor Cruz's precise route-running to the Cowboys' failed execution on a key two-point conversion.
Soon he was off to Jersey to get his hair cut. After that, what else but "Monday Night Football?''
Tuesday I Franklin Lakes, N.J.
Simms lives on a large, wooded property, but not a gated, secluded estate. His home is a popular Halloween stop in the neighborhood, and his three dogs and five cats add to the informal feel.
At 57, Simms is old-school in many ways, including this: He has five newspapers delivered and starts his day reading them over a cup of coffee.
"I love the papers,'' he said. "I delivered papers from the second grade through high school.''
Simms arrived at Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn at 10:30, seconds before trainer Rich Sadiv was going to cancel him because of tardiness.
Sadiv, 48, is among the strongest men in the world at his age and weight and the ideal taskmaster for a guy like Simms: a former player turned grandfather of two who does not want to look or act his age in a gym.
"Taking care of myself, working out, eating right, it's what keeps me going,'' he said. "I don't want to go on camera Sunday when we're doing a big game and say, 'God, I'm so tired.' I want to be full of energy.
"When you play, you can eat dirt and it turns into muscle. I had dessert probably every night when I was a player. It was awesome. I really miss those days . . . Now I eat like a rabbit.''
Simms has his own key to the gym, where Matt, the youngest of his three children, was starting a workout as his father left. (Matt, 24, was a quarterback in Jets camp this past summer. Chris, 32, has retired as an NFL player, lives in Boston and works for the Patriots. Deirdre, 28, works in the fashion industry.)
By 1 p.m., Simms was in his office, ready to study the Patriots and Jets -- a process that would drift into early evening.
On his big screen, the Jets mauled the Colts all over again, and Simms wondered how that would translate against the Patriots.
The Patriots were doing their usual thing against the Sea- hawks, methodically grinding up yards with one short-distance throw after another, mostly to their tight ends and slot receiver.
After one sequence, Simms said, "Bill Walsh, if he were alive, he'd say, 'Boy, I never thought of that!' ''
Simms noted how few chances Mark Sanchez had for easy completions compared to Tom Brady.
"You have to be careful how you judge him,'' Simms said. "You built the team for the defense to be dominant and the run game to supplement the defense . . . Never have the Jets said, 'We're going to do all this for Mark Sanchez.' ''
Wednesday I Mount Laurel, N.J.
Since 2008, Simms has been driving to NFL Films' studios near Philadelphia as an analyst for the venerable "Inside the NFL.'' Like many football lifers, he basks in the aura created there by the late Steve Sabol.
Still, he initially was wary about the Showtime show. "I wanted to keep my material fresh for Sunday,'' he said. "But there's a thousand ways to say the same thing and there are so many subjects.''
This week's guest was Fox's officiating expert, Mike Pereira, whom Simms grilled on and off the air about the state of the pass-interference penalty.
If you'd asked Simms 30 years ago what he would be doing in 2012, he would have guessed coaching. Folks back home are shocked he became a broadcaster. "I wasn't much of a talker, believe it or not,'' he said.
When the Giants released him in 1994, ESPN hired him as a studio analyst. After a dalliance with the Browns fell through in '95, Simms went all in for a TV career, first in NBC's No. 1 booth and since 1998 with CBS.
"It was rough at first,'' he said. "I had no idea what was going on.''
On Feb. 3, he will work his seventh Super Bowl.
A day of rest
Thursdays are Simms' day to relax, with a workout followed by reading and perhaps some phone calls.
And then . . .
He planned to leave at 5 a.m. Friday for the drive to Foxboro, attend practice and talk football with Patriots coaches and players. Bill Belichick always is a highlight. No, really.
"I can say, 'Hey, Bill, I was reading an article about the Wing-T,' and he goes, 'Well, it was started in 1932 by so-and-so,' '' Simms said. "It is unbelievable . . . He's by far the greatest historian of football I've ever been around.''
On Saturday, Simms and the rest of the crew would be at the Jets' hotel and come Sunday, he would head to the familiar confines of Gillette Stadium. Routine, just as Simms likes it. But as he has learned, it's good to be flexible, too.
Next weekend he has the Pats again . . . in London.