The National Football League standings have not yet certified that a renaissance has taken root in New York City's environs, but that has not limited fan enthusiasm about the new growth potential of the Giants and Jets. A visitor can sense the excitement.
Wellington Mara, president of the Giants, offered a yardstick yesterday on the progress of the club under new General Manager George Young and new Coach Ray Perkins.
"A year ago the fans were burning tickets," Mara said within earshot of Perkins and quarterback Phil Simms in the locker room. "Now we have fans offering $100 for a single-game ticket. Some things must be going right."
He did not mention that the team that lost all of its first five games attracted the largest crowd ever Sunday at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. -- 76,490.
The Jets, no longer the one-man team they were under Joe Namath, were winning their fifth game on Sunday, in Green Bay, and the Giants came within three seconds of sending the Cowboys back to Dallas with a third loss, and the Giants' fifth victory.
Coach Walt Michaels of the Jets has won over the city by showing his young quarterbacks, Richard Todd and Matt Robinson, they can beat teams such as Oakland, Miami and Minnesota. Jim Kensil, the youngish club president who was exucutive director of the NFL, brought to the Jets an unshakeable conviction about building through the draft.
The Giants always have owned the city, except for the interlude when Namath became the symbol of the 1960s.
Young tested his authority with a longshot No. 1 pick in the Giants draft for a hayseed quarterback from Morehead State University who has turned out to be as slick as a Kentucky horse trader, Simms.
Simms has not buried the notion that it is next to impossible to play with the big boys in a quarterback's first season. But what frequently disillusioned Giant rooters like about Simms is his thoroughbred quality of being able to pick himself up out of the dirt and challenge his tormentors.
The Rams knocked him out, but he was revived on the sideline and returned to embarras them with his bullwhip arm. On Sunday, he suffered a double-touch interception by the Cowboys, let the coaches massage the bruise to his ego, and came back to outperform Roger Staubach for 58 minutes. b
Mara stopped at Simms' cubicle yesterday and remarked, "I could not get near you on Sunday after the game to tell you that you did a good job and to wish you a happy birthday (his 23rd, on Saturday). That Dallas defense is as good as you're going to see."
Simms said later, "I didn't find the Cowboys' defenses that confusing," as he furtively sorted fan mail.
Perkins said Simms played even better in beating Los Angeles and San Francisco.
But when Perkins was asked if it did not make him happy on Sunday when the public address announcer said, "Here's the Giants' offense" and there wass a standing ovation, low-key Perkins acknowledged, with almost the trace of a rare smile, "Yup, it sent a little tingle through my bones."
The giants can hardly wait for another measurement of their progress on Nov. 25, when they play the Redskins in Giants Stadium. Washington worked over the New York defense and won, 27-0.
That was while the Giants' coaches were still saying rookie Simms was not ready to start.