Why Brian Griese left the television booth to become 49ers’ quarterback coach

SANTA CLARA CA — Brian Griese spent his entire life talking about football on television or playing it. Both of these jobs were at the heart of the Griese family for over 55 years. But Griese suddenly found himself in a crossroads in February.

After two years in the Monday Night Football booth, his time was over. ESPN hired Griese to fill the void. “bigger fish”Troy Aikman will be the sole analyst. Even though TV deals were just as common as large player contracts during NFL offseasons Griese couldn’t wait to see if one would become available if he wanted a career that he had always wanted.

This is how Griese ended with Griese at dinner San Francisco 49ersCoach Kyle Shanahan with his staff in early March. Griese, Kyle’s father Mike Shanahan, had reached out to Shanahan just a few days before to express his interest in coaching the Niners’ quarterbacks team.

Shanahan was intrigued by Griese’s 47-year-old coaching experience. Although he had interviewed several candidates, he had known Griese for approximately 25 years. This was back to Griese’s playing days for Mike Shanahan. Denver BroncosIn the late 1990s, as an offensive assistant for Tampa Bay BuccaneersIn 2004-2005, Griese was a Bucs player.

The dinner was a chance for Griese to meet the Niners staff and to talk about football, life, and how he might fit in the San Francisco community. Shanahan got to learn how invested Griese is in such a dramatic career transition.

“Brian was very successful, has a family out in Denver, hours change a lot and they all say they know which he does, but it gets different once you really get into it,” Shanahan said. “We really tried to scare the heck out of him, tried to tell him how bad it sucked and how miserable he was gonna be and how much your wife’s not gonna like it.”

Despite Shanahan’s and his staff’s best efforts, a football edition of “Scared Straight,”Griese was not fazed. Griese was able to answer every question Shanahan and other coaches raised. He was easy to work with and fit in well with the other assistants. Shanahan called it an easy choice, even though there would be some learning curve. Griese signed a two year contract to replace Rich Scangarello, the quarterbacks coach. It was completed within 48 hours.

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The Niners made a bold hiring, considering their ongoing quarterback drama. They were about to give the keys to a promising, but unproven quarterback Trey LanceAnd we were in the midst a seemingly never-ending cycle of events Jimmy Garoppolo saga.

It remains to see if Griese makes a long-term career shift. For now, it’s an opportunity to try something different and scratch his competitive itch. Los Angeles Rams(2-1) Monday Night Football (8.15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2/ESPN+/ABC).

“I knew this was gonna be a challenge that I was ready for but you never know until you get into it,”Griese stated. “There’s no winning or losing in the booth. And I enjoyed my time doing it. I really did and there were some leadership aspects to it, of leading a team of 125 or 150 people to go and cover a game and, and to do it well and to do it under the brightest lights and to communicate and to teach the game to people at home. And I enjoyed all of that but when the game was over, you didn’t know if you won or lost.”

UNDER DIFFERENT CIRCUITSCoaching football would have been an occupational lineage of the Griese.

Five games into his fourteenth NFL season, Bob Griese (father to Brian, then 6-years-old) suffered a shoulder injury. It was severe enough that it ended his 1980 season and his Hall of Fame journey at 35.

His ability to think his own way through difficult situations has been a hallmark of his life. Miami DolphinsBob was a natural fit for Don Shula’s legendary coaching staff. Shula quickly offered Bob a position as the team’s quarterbacks coach, which he accepted in 1981.

In a bizarre football coincidence, Bob helped Miami to finish the season while trying to navigate a two-quarterback dilemma between Don Strock and David Woodley. This would be the duo that would become known in football as “Woodstrock.”Bob helped Miami achieve an 11-4-1 record, and an AFC playoff berth.

Shula asked him to stay for the long-term because he was such a natural coach. Bob was far too far from his wife and sons.

“I thought I could do a good job and that’s why Shula said, ‘No, you love this,'”Bob said. “I said, ‘Yeah, but I love my family more.’ It was the hours. I know I could have been good at it because I know what it took to be a good coach. But it was the time that was the key.”

Bob quit coaching after a season and joined NBC in 1982. Broadcasting allowed Bob to spend more time with his family and keep him close to the game. His greatest concern was naming the players correctly and providing analysis between plays. Bob spent the next 30 years in the radio booth or on television calling college and NFL football games.

A coaching career can also present a challenge because it can be a nomadic existence without family. As assistants, they work their way up the food ladder.

Jay Bilas, ESPN college-basketball analyst, felt that the hours were more important than the hours. He had previously worked as an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski, Duke, for three seasons. He chose to broadcast, despite being offered the chance to go back to the sidelines.

“Of course, you look at that and say, ‘That would have been fun,'”Bilas said. “I know I made the right decision for our family, so I’d never second guess that part of it. But broadcasting doesn’t provide the same competitive outlet that being involved in sports does.”

Brian told his father in the offseason that he was interested in coaching. His dad asked him one question: What about his family?

Brook, Brian’s wife and two children, Nathan and Lia (both in high school), stayed in Denver following his appointment with the Niners. They also gave their blessing.

They were the main reason Brian did not make the transition to coaching sooner and why Brian chose to go into the booth first.

“My kids were young and I didn’t wanna bounce around the country,”Brian said. “It was really as simple as that. My family had made sacrifices for me to play for a long time and I felt like it was time for me to be home. After 13 years, my kids were grown up, they’re getting ready to get out of the house. When this opportunity came, it was the right time and it was the right challenge at that moment.”

JUST BEFORE THEBrian found himself wondering what he would have done if he had chosen to work in broadcasting instead of moving to San Francisco. Brian imagined spending time with his loved ones, studying the NFL rosters to find additions and subtractions. He would also be learning new names, jersey numbers, pronunciations, as well as diving deeper into the offseason stories of all 32 teams.

Griese instead planned to coach Lance and a seventh-round pick, two young quarterbacks. Brock PurdyWhile recovering from right shoulder surgery, he loomed in background as Garoppolo, a trainee at Garoppolo’s training camp.

“I was so thankful to be here, let’s just put it that way,”Brian laughed.

Brian accepted the job knowing Lance was the starter and Garoppolo was likely to be on another team. Garoppolo and Brian had virtually no communication until Garoppolo reported for training camp. Griese spent the offseason with Lance, Purdy, and veteran Nate SudfeldThe 49ers finally released him.

It was a good fit for Brian, whom Shanahan calls “Brian”. “one of the smartest players”He’s the most popular person he’s ever known. Shanahan reminisces about his time as a young assistant in Tampa Bay. He watched Griese prepare for games, and marveled at how he could memorize everything and then spit it back out without missing a beat.

Brian’s ability also to tap into his playing experiences earned him instant credibility with the Niners quarterbacks. He was initially known as a broadcaster but quickly realized that he had spent 11 seasons in their shoes.

Easy relationships were built by sharing knowledge about the little things, such as how to control the huddle and tips on identifying indicators from defense pre-snap.

Brian gained this wisdom during his 83 NFL NFL starts with the Broncos Dolphins Buccaneers Bears and Buccaneers. This included a Pro Bowl appearance for 2000. He was also the starting quarterback of Michigan’s 1997 national championship winning team.

“He just sees it very similarly to you,” Garoppolo said. “It’s tough to coach a quarterback. You have to be able to see it the same way as him, which a lot of guys think they do but they don’t. And he just has the experience of being on the field, being in those moments and it’s nice to have a guy like that around.”

Brian admitted that he is still trying out his coaching style. It’s a process that every coach has to go through, but Shanahan also wants to help with this in an offseason when 14 coaches were either moving into new roles or transitioning into existing ones.

Shanahan and his staff remained after all that turnover and spent more time coaching other coaches about the finer points of teaching players and understanding their communication needs.

“I would say that’s almost all of what coaching is, is ‘How do we teach?'”Bobby Slowik, 49ers passing game coordinator, said. “How do we instill what we know and what we want onto these individuals that may hear things we say in different ways … The whole process of that is really the name of the game.”

IN SOME OFBrian’s first weeks as a professional athlete were spent in Shanahan’s perplexity. He would ask Shanahan why he would tell players to do something. Although the message would be received, it wouldn’t translate on the field.

“He’d come in and be like, ‘Man, why won’t they do it?'” Shanahan said. “Well, welcome to coaching, man. You don’t just say it and they do it. You gotta reframe it. You gotta get a different way. Not every person thinks the same. Not everybody is physically the same … You gotta be yourself but you gotta reach people a different way.”

Brian acknowledges that the appeal of seeing a result every week was a driving factor in his career shift. However, he also recognizes that it was a leap he would not have taken if it wasn’t for Shanahan.

In some ways Griese and Shanahan can be considered like brothers, as they were raised in football by fathers who were known to be mentally sharper than their opponents.

“I wasn’t looking and I certainly wasn’t gonna just take any job,”Griese stated. “I wasn’t gonna come here if I didn’t feel 100% good about that … It was a unique situation and a unique timing … those two things coming together led to an opportunity and a decision that I feel really good about.”

Griese, a month into his first season on the job is helping the Niners navigate their ever-changing quarterback waters. Griese has not yet considered moving up in the coaching ranks, nor how long he intends to stay there. His priorities are becoming the best coach he possibly can and helping to get the result he desires.

“One of our core tenets we talked about in our very first meeting was pushing our comfort zones and challenging ourselves,”Griese stated. “I’m a lifelong learner. I hope that as long as I’m on this earth, I’m learning and growing. This experience has certainly been that and I think we are approaching or at least giving ourselves an opportunity to be our best self when we’re continuing to grow.”


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