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Bob Griese

Robert Allen Griese (born February 3, 1945 in Evansville, Indiana) is a former American football quarterback who earned All-American honors with the Purdue Boilermakers before being drafted in 1967 by the American Football League's Miami Dolphins. Griese led the Dolphins to three consecutive Super Bowl appearances, including two Super Bowl victories (VII and VIII). Griese's talents eventually resulted in his induction to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. He is a television commentator for college football on ESPN on ABC.

Early life

Robert Allen Griese was born February 3, 1945, in Evansville, Indiana, the second of three children born to Sylverious and Ida (Ullrich) Griese. Sylverious was a plumber in the Evansville area. When Bob was ten years old, Sylverious died of a heart attack. That event affected Bob’s personality, as he became quiet and introspective over the death of his father. Bob enjoyed sports as a youngster, and often played with his older (and much bigger) brother Bill and his friends. Bob got roughed up in these pick up games, but he later reflected that that he may have developed a little faster athletically by playing with these bigger boys. Bob enjoyed baseball primarily, and excelled as a pitcher. He also enjoyed basketball and football. However, there were few in his neighborhood who knew enough about football to adequately coach him how to throw one, so he attempted to throw it like he threw a baseball—side armed and with a clockwise twist of the wrist. This, along with throwing a ball that was too big for his hand, led to a rather poor throwing style. Bob knew that his only chance to afford college was through an athletic scholarship. He was recruited by a few colleges when he graduated from high school, but the one school where he really wanted to go—Notre Dame—pulled its offer of a scholarship at the last minute. Bob settled on Purdue, where he majored in business management and became a three-sport star. (Early Life cited from Undefeated, by Bob Griese, copyright 2000)

College career

While at Purdue, Bob became a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. In college Griese pitched for the baseball team, going 12-1 one season, played guard on the basketball season, and played quarterback, kicker, and punter for the Purdue football team. There were many games where Bob scored every one of Purdue’s points. Griese’s passing skills greatly improved under the tutelage of head coach Jack Mollenkoff and quarterback coach Bob DeMoss.

In his junior year at game against Notre Dame, Griese completed 19 of 22 passes as he led the Boilermakers to an upset win.

Griese was a two-time All-American at Purdue and was the runner-up to Steve Spurrier for the 1966 Heisman Trophy. He led Purdue to the 1966 Big Ten championship (Purdue finished second in the Big Ten in 1966) and the school's first appearance in the Rose Bowl, where they defeated USC 14-13.

Pro Football career

1967-1969

Griese was the fourth player selected in the 1967 Common Draft. He was selected by the AFL's Miami Dolphins. Griese recorded 2,005 yards and 15 touchdowns in his rookie year in Miami.

An AFL All-Star during his first two years, Griese went on to earn AFL All-Star or AFC-NFC Pro Bowl honors in six more seasons. While he never put up huge numbers, his leadership played an important role in helping the Dolphins compete in three consecutive Super Bowls, winning the latter two contests.

Griese started the season as the team’s second-string quarterback behind John Stofa. However, Stofa broke his ankle in the first quarter of the first game of the 1967 season, and Griese stepped in and pitched a 35-21 victory against the Denver Broncos. The next three years were fairly rough for the expansion team Dolphins. The wins were hard to come by, and after a difficult 1969 season that seemed to be a step back from the 1968 season, coach George Wilson was fired. Dolphin owner Joe Robbie brought in Don Shula from the Baltimore Colts, and immediately the Dolphins personality and fortunes turned. The team found a new discipline, and discovered what it took to become a winning football team. They went from a 3-10-1 team in 1969 to a 10-4 team in 1970, making the playoffs. The next year the team made it to the Super Bowl, and Bob Griese was named the Most Valuable Player in the NFL, receiving the Jim Thorpe trophy. Although the Dolphins lost that Super Bowl in a bitter loss to the Dallas Cowboys, there was no denying that this was a team that was quickly becoming a powerhouse.

1970-1976

The next season began well, with the Dolphins winning their first few games over their toughest opponents of the year. However, in the fifth game of the season, Bob Griese was tackled by Deacon Jones and Ron East of the San Diego Chargers, and he went down with a broken leg and dislocated ankle. In came Earl Morrall, fresh off the waiver wire from Shula’s former team, the Baltimore Colts. Morrall guided the Dolphins through the rest of the regular season, and maintained an unbeaten record in the process. Morrall even led the AFC in passing, as Griese had done the previous year. However, as the playoffs began, it was obvious that the Dolphins were not as strong as they needed to be to last very long in the postseason. The Dolphins barely squeaked by a Cleveland Browns team that they should have beaten easily, and then they got a slow start the following week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Shula knew that he needed to turn back to Griese to relieve the ailing Morrall. Shula simply turned to Bob at halftime and asked him, “Are you ready?” to Griese’s reply, “Yes, I’m ready.” With that, Bob took the field to thunderous applause and responded as if he had never been away, leading the Dolphins to a convincing win and their second straight Super Bowl appearance. Shula quickly decided that Griese would start that game. Despite their unbeaten season, the Dolphins were listed as two point underdogs to the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. However, true to the form of the season, the Dolphins played a perfect, ball control game. Bob connected on 8 of 11 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, as Larry Csonka rushed for over 120 yards, and the Dolphins defense, led by 17 tackles by Manny Fernandez, stymied the Redskin offense. There was only one miscue at the end of the game, as Armenian kicker Garo Yepremian attempted to throw a blocked field goal, but only succeeded in bobbing it up into the waiting arms of Redskin Mike Bass, who returned the ball for a touchdown. That ruined the defensive shutout, but the Dolphins were able to hold onto victory and establish the first and only time an NFL team has remained unbeaten and untied through an entire season. (The Chicago Bears had two unbeaten regular seasons in the first half of the twentieth century, but ended up losing in the post season, similar to the New England Patriots of 2007. Also, 4 other teams have gone unbeaten, but not untied). The following year, the Dolphins seemed even more efficient and dominant. Although they did not make it through the season undefeated, they again easily marched to the Super Bowl, and then totally dominated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. The next year was the beginning of the end for the Dolphin Dynasty. The upcoming World Football League was able to attract some of the most important players from the Dolphins, and the team knew it was the last season playing with Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield. The team was still strong, going 11-3 during the regular season, but they lost a heartbreaking game to the Oakland Raiders as a last second pass into the endzone escaped the Dolphins’ defenders’ grasp and Clarence Davis held on to the Kenny Stabler pass. While the 1970 playoff loss to the Raiders signified the dawn, this 1974 loss tolled as the end of an era. Never again would the Dolphins be so dominant. In 1975, Griese and the Dolphins had another strong season, finishing 10-4, but missed out on the playoffs for the first time in the Shula era. Griese broke a toe in the 11th game, and missed the last three games. In 1976, the Dolphins were beset with many injuries, and the team finished with a 6-8 record, the first time Don Shula had ever suffered a losing season in his career (which went back to 1963).

1977-1979

1977 was a rebound year for both Griese and the Dolphins. Bob began to wear eyeglasses on the field, revealing for the first time that he had always been legally blind in his right eye. His passing statistics soared when he donned the spectacles. On Thanksgiving, 1977, Griese threw six touchdown passes in three quarters to demolish the St. Louis Cardinals. Griese knew that the record was seven touchdown passes in a game, but chose to sit out the last quarter so that backup Don Strock could receive some needed practice. Head Coach Don Shula recalled that game at Griese's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and called Griese, "The most unselfish player I have ever been around." Bob again led the AFC in passing, and again won several Most Valuable Player awards. However, the rebound to a 10-4 record was again not enough to get the resurgent Dolphins back into the playoffs. The following year, Bob tore ligaments in his knee in a preseason game. However, when he came back, he was just as strong a passer as he had been the previous year. In one game against the Houston Oilers, Griese dueled with Oiler running back Earl Campbell in an offensive slugfest—Griese threw for over 300 yards and Campbell rushed for nearly 200. The Oilers won that one 35-31 in one of the more exciting games in Monday Night Football history. For the year, Griese completed 63% of his passes, as the Dolphins went 11-5, losing again to the Oilers in the playoffs. In 1979, Bob suffered from some nagging leg injuries that affected his throwing. He was not as effective, and he began to hear some criticism. However, he was able to lead the Dolphins to a 10-6 record. The Dolphins then found themselves dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the playoffs. In 1980, Griese had found that he had lost his starting spot in the roster to either Don Strock or rookie David Woodley. However, Griese came off the bench for several games in a row to lead comeback wins. Griese won back the starting spot in the fifth game of the season, but was tackled hard by Mike Ozdowski of the Baltimore Colts in the fifth game of the season. The tackle tore up Bob’s shoulder, and he was out for the rest of the year. The injury eventually led to Griese’s decision to retire from the game at the age of 35. Bob was eventually elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. He had established his reputation as the “Thinking Man’s Quarterback,” as he brilliantly called his own plays throughout his career. Dolphin owner Joe Robbie called him “the cornerstone of the franchise,” around whom the Miami Dolphins were built. Robbie elected to ask Griese to stay on for another year as assistant coach, which he did for the 1981 season, helping Strock and the young Woodley as they teamed to become the famous “Woodstrock.” Bob decided that he did not like the hours required to be an assistant coach, hoping to devote more time to his family, yet still enjoyed being part of the game. (Sources for Pro Football Career found in Undefeated, by Bob Griese, 2000, and The Winning Edge by Don Shula, 1974).

The Miami Dolphins had the highest winning percentage in all professional sports in the 1970s, and Bob Griese was its starting quarterback throughout the decade, except when he was injured for several games in 1972, 1975, and 1978.

In Griese's 14 pro seasons, he threw for 25,092 yards and 192 touchdowns. Griese also rushed for 994 yards and seven scores. Griese was a six-time Dolphins' MVP and was All-Pro in 1971 and 1977. He played in two AFL All-Star games and six Pro Bowls.

Life After Football

To stay in touch with the game, Griese decided to take a job as an announcer for NBC Sports, teaming with Charlie Jones for NFL games. Later, Griese was hired by ABC Sports, where he began to provide color commentary for college football games. He formed a memorable team with Keith Jackson, and found many opportunities to watch his son Brian Griese play for the Michigan Wolverines. Eventually, Bob was considered one of the top commentators in the country. ABC was at first reluctant to let Griese broadcast Michigan games, fearing a conflict of interest. But when they decided to give it a try, Bob remained as impartial and professional as he could be, even referring to his son as “Griese,” rather than Brian, and pointing out errors when he felt necessary. Finally, on January 1, 1997, Bob got to broadcast a Rose Bowl game which happened to feature the last college game of his son. Brian played very well, and outshined the much more heralded quarterback on the other side of the field, Ryan Leaf. Brian was named MVP of the game, as he had led his Wolverines to an undefeated season after their Rose Bowl victory. Bob and Brian were emotional at that moment, as they thought of Bob’s wife Judi, who had passed away from breast cancer but whom they both felt was there at that special moment. Bob and Brian later wrote a book, entitled Undefeated (ISBN 0-7852-7021-3), which discussed not only their football connection, but also their love for Judi. (That book is the source of this information). Brian has since become a professional quarterback himself, currently playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bob now resides with his second wife, Shay, in Jupiter, Florida and Banner Elk, North Carolina. In 2006, Bob Griese was on Wheel of Fortune. Griese won, and the winnings went to Judi's House.

See also

References

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