1999 NFL Preview
Weekly lineup

 Monday, September 6
Focal Point: Can Griese do it?


The Question:
Is Brian Griese good enough to get the Broncos back to the Super Bowl?

The Background:
Last season as a rookie, Griese played in one game and threw only three passes, completing one for two yards. In his first four games during the 1999 preseason, Griese has completed 56 of 84 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns. That performance helped him take Bubby Brister's starting job.

The son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese, Brian led the University of Michigan to a share of the national title in 1997.

Yes   No
By Sean Salisbury
Special to ESPN.com

I think the Broncos can get back to the Super Bowl with Brian Griese at quarterback. They could put any quarterback on that team because they surround him with so many talented players.

No one, not Terry Bradshaw or Joe Montana or Troy Aikman, has been able to threepeat. The Broncos have all the talent in the world, but I don't think they'll be able to do it, with or without Griese. There are probably two or three teams better than the Broncos in the AFC.

But the difference in the Broncos getting over the top was John Elway. If you told me Elway was back and asked if they could threepeat, I would have given them as good a chance as any to do it. But I'd still say it's so difficult. You always have to question how hungry your team is and whether they can stay healthy.

Griese wouldn't be the only reason they wouldn't go to the Super Bowl. If Griese goes the distance as the starter, he should get them to the playoffs, but the extra two or three playoff games are so difficult. It's tough to get to the Super Bowl without a great quarterback like Elway. Griese might end up being great, but I don't think the Broncos will get there this year. Still, he won't be the reason they fail.

I think Griese is a wonderful player. In the long haul, he will be a better quarterback than Bubby Brister. He's accurate, has underrated arm strength and has an athletic arrogance. It's not cockiness, but an attitude that he thinks he's going to succeed. I mean that as a compliment. He knows football in that he grew up with football a lot like Peyton Manning.

When Griese was drafted last year, because of the team that drafted him, I felt he had a chance to be as good as any quarterback from that class, including Manning. He can be an excellent quarterback and a starter for a long time in this league.

Since the Broncos began their Super Bowl run two years ago, they have been Terrell Davis' team. But Elway was the closer. Griese might be able to beat teams, but you knew Elway could do it.

The real test will come when the Broncos are down by six with two minutes to go on the road. That's when we'll know how much they miss Elway. We don't know yet if Griese is a closer, but nobody in the history of the NFL was as good a closer as Elway. One thing is true: The team that wins the Super Bowl this year won't have an average quarterback on the field.

It used to be 10 players looking at Elway. Now it will be one player, Griese, looking at 10, looking for help. He doesn't need to be a superstar to get the Broncos an 11-5 record. But he'll have to make superstar plays in the playoffs.

Elway had a quality for making special plays that you can't teach, but we don't know yet if Griese has it. For the Broncos to threepeat, he has to show that he has what you can't teach. If he does, we'll find out if the Broncos believe enough in Griese to get back to the Super Bowl.


By Merril Hoge
Special to ESPN.com

Brian Griese won't be able to lead the Broncos back to their third consecutive Super Bowl because of his lack of experience. You win Super Bowls with experienced and talented players. Granted, Denver has both qualities across the board at every position but quarterback.

Unfortunately, Griese will have to make the critical and key plays throughout the season. No quarterback in the history of the game has been able to make all the right decisions and calls. But in order to go the Super Bowl, the majority have to be right and accurate.

Griese is going to see things he has never seen before. That in itself equals failure. He's going to fail a lot. Teams will put Griese in more difficult situations each and every Sunday. Their objective will be to make Griese beat them. He'll learn from the situations, but it'll take him the whole season to learn and develop. The Broncos can't afford to allow Griese to make the kinds of mistakes he's going to make and then expect to win a Super Bowl. It's not going to happen.

Statistically, Griese has outplayed Bubby Brister in the preseason, but everybody in the Broncos' starting unit has been outplayed, from Terrell Davis to Rod Smith to Shannon Sharpe. It depends on what type of emphasis you put on the preseason. Shanahan and the Broncos put the emphasis on staying healthy. The entire team played poorly, not just Brister.

If Brister were the quarterback, the Broncos would have a much shot at returning to the Super Bowl. I would take an experienced quarterback who gives my team a better opportunity instead of a quarterback who has only thrown three NFL passes.

Sure, Griese will be surrounded by great players. But all it takes is one player to mess it up. It takes 11 players on offense to execute, and that one player, the quarterback, is pretty important.

You can't expect Griese to play at Super Bowl level in his first year. History will show that doesn't happen. It's much different than going with an experienced quarterback who has confronted all the obstacles an NFL quarterback has to face.

People can say the Broncos have Davis and the best offensive line in football. Absolutely. But defenses will play eight- and nine-man fronts to take away Davis and force Griese to beat them.

In the first Monday night game against Miami, the Dolphins will have Sam Madison and Terrell Buckley in man coverage on the outside and have nine guys on the line of scrimmage. They will put pressure all over Davis, and it'll require Griese to make almost perfect throws every time. That won't happen.