Mike London Misses Big Opportunity with Phillip Sims and Virginia Cavaliers

By Tyler Brett
Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports

While it might have been the least surprising split of the summer, Phillip Sims leaving the Virginia Cavaliers was still a significant blow to the program. Virginia has been looking for a consistent playmaker under center for over a decade and Sims seemed like he could be the guy when he transferred from the Alabama Crimson Tide. Things quickly went south, however, and head coach Mike London must ask if this was a missed opportunity to save the quarterback position of the Cavaliers.

Coming out of high school, Sims was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect before he signed on with Alabama. When he fell behind A.J. McCarron on the depth chart, he decided to look elsewhere where his services would be put to better use. He thought he had found that place at Virginia, but soon become frustrated and disenfranchised with his whole experience, on the field and in the class room.

Though Sims appeared in all 12 games in 2012, starting four of them, London’s yo-yo quarterback system between Sims and Michael Rocco seemed to prevent either quarterback from developing any kind of rhythm or confidence. The result was erratic quarterback play that buried the Cavaliers down the stretch and ended up pushing Rocco out of the picture as well. He decided to transfer to the Richmond Spiders shortly after the season, seemingly opening the door for Sims to be the No. 1 guy full-time.

But spring practice brought a surprising twist. Sims was listed as the No. 3 quarterback behind a pair of signal callers with next to no experience at the college level. Sims began giving bizarre answers to questions by reporters about having to be himself and London appeared frustrated with the transfer’s attitude, effort and dedication to the Virginia program. The end result was Sims leaving school after becoming academically ineligible.

Perhaps London and his staff merely inherited a troubled athlete who didn’t have the emotional maturity to turn his physical gifts into results when it mattered. But maybe London could have done more to make Sims feel comfortable at Virginia and nurtured the young man to grow up a bit as a leader of the Cavaliers. For a program that hasn’t gotten solid contributions since Matt Schaub left the program in 2002, they could have certainly used a better effort from both sides.

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