On a steamy night in late July, the dashboard temperature reading 101 during the grueling rush-hour drive from Sayville to Franklin Lakes, N.J., Jack Coan was Mr. Cool.
The senior quarterback from Sayville High School, already a two-time Newsday All-Long Island first-team selection and on the verge of breaking LI’s all-time career records for yards passing and touchdown passes, sat in the back seat, headphones on, unruffled by his father’s grumbling about the bumper-to-bumper trek.
Upon arrival at a public park in the upscale New Jersey community, Coan warmed up his golden right arm in the parking lot with his friend who also made the trip, Sayville senior wide receiver Jake Kolar, keeping an eye out for his famous offseason mentor.
Then, as if in a scene from “Field of Dreams,” former Giants quarterback Phil Simms emerged from the thick woods that connect the Simms property to the town’s turf field. He and his son, Matt, an NFL backup quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, were lugging bags of footballs and large coolers of sports drinks and water.
“I don’t usually come out while it’s still light. I’m like a vampire,” Phil Simms joked, wearing gobs of sunscreen, sunglasses and a large floppy hat, the latter two which he discarded after the sun went down. “I’m very sensitive to the sun.”
Simms, 61, had given Coan private indoor lessons weekly since April, but for this final session before high school football practice began, there were two other Simms students, both New Jersey high school quarterbacks, so class was moved outside where the sun-shy lead analyst for CBS’ NFL telecasts proudly wore a long-sleeved T-shirt from his alma mater, Morehead State, despite the heat.
For Coan, 17, who plans to graduate high school in January and enroll at the University of Wisconsin for the spring semester to participate in spring practice, it was another step in a six-month transformation of his throwing motion. Coan had been taught a traditional over-the-top release.
Simms, who played his entire NFL career for the Giants and was MVP of Super Bowl XXI, said he loved what he saw when he first watched Coan throw in the winter of 2015. But Simms suggested changing his delivery.
THE SIMMS METHOD
“The biggest thing I got out of it was that he’s trying to get me to keep my arm compact. Not throwing so much over the top,” said Coan, the 22nd-ranked high school quarterback in the country according to Rivals.com, a respected recruiting website.
“The way he throws, the way he teaches, it’s like your whole body is into the throw. It gets a lot more velocity and accuracy. It’s your shoulders, hips and body turning as you throw. And I really like what he said about ‘violent feet.’ Make sure your feet are always popping when you’re throwing the ball.”
Simms called himself “a nit-picker” and constantly shouted instructions and offered constructive criticism as well as praise with a firm hands-on approach. The three quarterbacks, plus his son, went through a rigorous routine that included pocket passes, throwing on the run, short throws and deep balls. “He doesn’t miss anything. It was crazy,” Coan said. “Some of the throws I thought would be perfect he would correct one little thing.”
For Simms, it’s all about those details. He does not charge for his services to a select few high school quarterbacks, but rather labors out of love for football and the art of being a quarterback. “I like coming out here for the kids. I love teaching it. I love seeing their faces when it gets better,” Simms said. “That’s why I do it. I think I know enough about it to fix little things that kids don’t know how to do.”
In Coan’s case, the goal was to alter his motion to allow for more improvisation in the pocket and to increase velocity. “Get into position to throw it harder. There’s no magic oil I can rub on him,” Simms said. “It’s learning to leverage yourself to throw the ball. To turn behind it. You can’t do it just with your arm.”
Simms was known for being fearless in the pocket and for making adjustments, sometimes throwing sidearm to get the ball around hard-charging linemen. He has taught Coan those principles and the student seems to have grasped them. “There are not a lot of throws you can make with perfect timing, perfect accuracy, perfect everything,” Coan said. “To be able to improvise is definitely big. He introduced a lot of new ideas.”
They were new not only to the 6-4, 190-pound Coan, but also to his high school coach Rob Hoss, who guided Sayville to the Class III Long Island Championship and an undefeated season last year and attended two of the summer sessions in New Jersey. “Being a Giants fan, it was an unbelievable experience to watch him work with your quarterback,” Hoss said. “You have a Super Bowl MVP who wants to work with an elite quarterback, and impart the wisdom he has gained from his experience. How do you say no to that?”
“Phil gave Jack some new ideas that we don’t use here at Sayville and it’s something that I don’t preach, something that’s not my philosophy,” Hoss said.
“Jack throws the ball up high over the shoulder, a technique that’s commonly taught across the country. But what coach Simms did to engage more of Jack’s core and get more whip has absolutely made his ball faster and made him a stronger thrower.”
Hoss, who said he will incorporate some of what Simms taught Coan into his own approach, thought he saw a difference in his quarterback when summer practice began but in order to be sure, asked his receivers if that was really the case. They confirmed that there was more zip on Coan’s passes.
‘‘The new way that Phil was teaching him definitely put a lot more power on the ball, a nice tighter spiral” said Kolar, one of Sayville’s top returning receivers who attended several of the summer sessions with Coan. “Jack can throw that way with power and with touch.”
Simms, who hopes to continue the relationship, said he would not put undue pressure on Coan by predicting what he might accomplish. But he noted, “Jack does a lot of things well. He’s got great feet. He has the ability to move outside and to throw in the pocket. I’ll be very surprised if he isn’t a successful college quarterback.”
He’s already a summer school standout.
Jack Coan needs 36 yards passing and four touchdown passes to surpass Long Island records:
No.Player, School Years
7,660Joe Capobianco, Lawrence 2011-13
7,625Jack Coan, Sayville 2013-present
6,407Steven Ferreira, Sayville 2009-11
5,617Nick Frenger, Plainedge 2010-13
5,376Tony Capozzoli, St. Dominic 1972-75
100Joe Capobianco, Lawrence 2011-13
97Jack Coan, Sayville 2013-present
73Steven Ferreira, Sayville 2009-11
68Tony Capozzoli, St. Dominic 1972-75
59Nick Frenger, Plainedge 2010-13
P.J. Preziosa, Lawrence 2004-07
SOURCE: Newsday records