Griese worth Bengals pick? Odds are yes

Saturday, April 18, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

bob and brian griese
Bob and Brian Griese
(AP photo)
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His sire was a real stud. His past performance chart is off the charts. He does not startle your stopwatch, but he inevitably finds a way to win.

If Brian Griese were a racehorse, he'd be the Kentucky Derby favorite. Because he is a quarterback, a lot of what he has to offer is overlooked.

The great debate before today's National Football League draft is Peyton Manning versus Ryan Leaf. They are the nation's preeminent passing prospects, and the two most coveted players in the annual selection extravaganza.

Bob Griese's kid will likely be the third quarterback chosen, but that may not happen until the third or fourth round. The man who led Michigan to a share of the national championship has all of the qualities you look for in a football leader. His problem is quantity. There isn't enough of Brian Griese to suit the scouts -- he stands only 6-foot-1 at a position increasingly suited to small forwards -- and his feet are not nearly so fast as his mind. He can't see as much of the field as some fellows, and he can't throw the ball all that far. He tends to have a lot of passes tipped.

"I know I don't have the talent that a lot of guys who plan to play in the NFL do," Griese said before the Rose Bowl. "I'm pretty realistic. There are guys who can throw harder and run faster. I have my strengths and I play to them."

Experts are 1-for-13

What makes Griese one of the most intriguing talents on the board is that what he does well no one does any better, and what he does not do well may not matter all that much.

Much as the NFL has sought to measure football aptitude, and much as it might drown us in objective data, the screening process for professional football is notoriously inexact. Of the 13 quarterbacks who have been selected in the first round during this decade, only Drew Bledsoe has been an unqualified success with his original team. Whatever formula the NFL uses to assess quarterbacks has yielded the likes of David Klingler and Andre Ware.

None of the NFL's five top passers last season played for the team that drafted them. Green Bay's Brett Favre, a three-time Most Valuable Player, was a second-round choice of the Atlanta Falcons. Jacksonville's Mark Brunell, the AFC's leading passer, was formerly a fifth-round pick of the Packers.

"There are those in personnel who say you shouldn't draft quarterbacks; that you should let someone else develop them," said Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro - college personnel. "By the time their fourth year comes, and they're doing things right, they're free agents."

Lippincott loves Brian Griese because he does most things right already. He rarely misses the open man. He seldom forces the ball into dangerous spots. He knows his limitations and exploits his skills. He threw 17 touchdown passes last season against only six interceptions.

"He doesn't screw up," Lippincott said. "The ball moves down the field and he does not make a lot of mistakes. Does he throw bad balls? No. Does he throw in a crowd? No. He gets better and better and better."

Bob Griese won two Super Bowls and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with that same understated style. If Brian Griese is half as good as his old man, he would be well worth one of the Bengals' two third-round picks.

Given the Dave Shula experience, the Bengals may be wary of believing in bloodlines. Given the recent acquisition of Paul Justin, the team's need at quarterback is not quite so acute.

Yet Boomer Esiason's success last season underscored how much Jeff Blake leaves to be desired as a starting quarterback. (For starters, size, leadership and accuracy). If Brian Griese is not an improvement, neither is he a huge risk if he can be had in the third round.

"He doesn't have a great arm," said draft analyst Jerry Jones, who publishes The Drugstore List. "He's got a sufficient arm. But I would say next to Peyton Manning, he has the most composure on the field, the most poise, the most feeling for what has to be done." If he were a racehorse, you'd have to like his odds.

Updated draft coverage
from Associated Press
Bengals page