|Even Before Beginning an Undefeated Season that Culminated in a Rose Bowl Victory in which He Earned MVP, Brian Griese Proved to Be an Underrated Passer ... and a Clutch Performer.||
1998 Rose Bowl MVP Brian Griese
Brian Griese delivers in the clutch this season for Michigan.
By Vito Forlenza
Collegian Magazine, Penn State
7 November 1997
Only a win would
salvage Michigan's 1996 season--
[In 1996] The Wolverines were closing out the regular season of a rebuilding year, one in which they finished with an underachieving 8-4 overall record, and the list of obstacles facing Michigan grew one line longer when starting quarterback Scott Dreisbach injured his elbow late in the second quarter with the Buckeyes ahead 9-0. Although the offense had yet to provide a spark for the Wolverines, just the thought of the team's first-string signal caller out of the year's biggest game seemed to model the Michigan season.
Backup quarterback Brian Griese put down the clipboard and picked up his blue and maize helmet. It was a familiar situation for Griese. In 1995, after Dreisbach broke his right index finger and was out for the year, Griese jumped into the starting role for what proved to be the remainder of the season. In his first game replacing Dreisbach, Griese led the Wolverines to a 38-19 victory over Miami (Ohio).
But that circumstance was much different than Griese's Ohio State task.
In facing Michigan's ever-prominent and long-time rival, Griese was required to come off the sidelines in front of more than 94,000 fans in Ohio Stadium and rescue the Wolverine season while his father, Hall-of-Fame quarterback Bob Griese, announced the game for ABC in the press box above.
However, the younger Griese did not succumb to the seemingly continuous amounts of pressure of that game and led the Wolverines to a 13-9 victory over the Buckeyes. It was the second consecutive season Griese powered Michigan over Ohio State in a game that had ironically similar characteristics as the first. And those Ohio State antics earned him the starting job in the Outback Bowl for what proved to be a losing effort against Alabama.
|Although Griese passed for 287 yards
and one touchdown on New Year's Day, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr could not
guarantee Griese the No. 1 quarterback position for 1997, which almost led
to his leaving the program. While many fans witnessed his clutch play from
the bench, many were unable to see the frustration within Griese as he stood
behind Dreisbach -- a frustration the elder Griese said his son did not
want to endure for another season. But after extensively conferring with
his father and two brothers, Griese decided to return for a fifth season.
"It was a difficult decision when I made it," he said. "I
felt I had my whole life to do the things I want to do, but I don't have
the rest of my life to play football. I wanted to come back and help this
However, Griese thought he should have been helping the Wolverines at particular points last season when Dreisbach struggled. Yet Carr stayed with his starter, and his loyalty to the junior Dreisbach continued throughout the off-season and into summer camp. In hopes of eliminating a quarterback controversy, Carr said the Wolverines had the luxury of four legitimate quarterback hopefuls, each capable of directing the Michigan offense.
But many knew the starter would be either Griese, a one-time walk-on, or Dreisbach, who came to Michigan as one of most sought after quarterbacks in his class.
|Following the ensuing battle between Griese
and Dreisbach in the preseason--a war in which Dreisbach once again was
injured as he sprained his right wrist--Griese was named the starter just
before the season opener against Colorado. But this time the Dreisbach injury
was not the lone factor that permitted Griese to obtain the starting role.
Unlike the 1996 preseason, after which Carr said he was not pleased with
his development from the year before, Griese arrived at this season's camp
as a different quarterback. "He has the ability and he has improved
a lot because of his work ethic since he came here," Carr said. "He
had a lot of strength but needed development."
Bob Griese explained the difference in Brian's game this year lies in his mechanics. The 6-foot-3, 207-pound quarterback has improved his throwing and footwork. Added to newfound inner trust and the knowledge of Michigan's offensive schemes has enabled him once again to be Michigan's leader.
"He has a lot more confidence in himself and a lot more understanding of the offense," Bob Griese said. "He knows the offense inside and out. That's similar to the way I played, my strength was knowing what's going on."
The comparisons between Griese and his father are inevitable, and requests for the two to draw the similarities and differences in their respective games surface not only from week-to-week but from year-to-year.
But football is only one aspect of their father-son relationship. The two became closer after Bob raised Brian alone following the death of his wife, Judith, in 1988. With Brian's brothers away from home, the two depended on each other while Bob tried to provide a home that would not be any different for his youngest son.
"I don't really talk to him about football," Brian Griese said. "I talk to him about more important things like family. He's a Hall-of-Fame father to me, and that's all that is important to me."
That may be why the older Griese was not asked about his son's future until the younger Griese had grown into one of the country's best high school quarterbacks. Up until that point, he did not think of his son as someone who had a football career in his future. Brian's intangible tools enabled him to play big-time college football. Though he had a relatively strong arm and good size, his abilities to read defenses, carry himself as a leader and throw with accuracy shaped him into a Div. I prospect.
| But Griese declined all scholarship
offers and chose Michigan because, as his father said, "He liked the
academics." Then-Michigan coach Gary Moeller did not hesitate when
he realized Griese had the talent to successfully lead the Wolverines through
a Big Ten schedule and presented him with a scholarship two weeks after
he stepped onto the practice field.
And ever since, coaches around the conference have been recognizing his ability.
"He's such a smart kid, such a poised kid," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "Brian is a real craftsman. I've been impressed with the ways he's handled certain situations. He doesn't make dumb plays. He is an outstanding college quarterback."
And a quarterback who doesn't have to come off the bench to exhibit his skills.