Bert Jones sat on the Baltimore bench during the first half of the Colts' game with Miami in the Orange Bowl last Sunday and watched Bob Griese go to work for the Dolphins. Jones had had a big first quarter, zinging rockets through an injury-depleted Miami secondary, but now in the second quarter it was Griese's turn, and as a 10-3 Colt lead turned into 17-10 Miami, Jones could only sit and watch.
"What is Griese, 35 years old now?" Jones said after the game, which the Colts went on to win 30-17. "You know, watching him work like that in the second quarter...well, you're dying to get back in there, but just watching that guy...he was really something. I've always held him on kind of a pedestal anyway. Today he went right out and knew what he had to do. He ran a short-passing, ball-control offense, and he kept our defense on the field and his defense off it. Hey, it was almost 100� on the floor of the Orange Bowl today."
The Colts and the Dolphins are both 3-2 now and chasing 5-0 Buffalo, the NFL's only unbeaten team, and 4-1 New England in the AFC East. They both show offenses in which the passing carries the running, and both can play defense on occasion, but not consistently. Quarterbacking is a different story. Jones, mature in his eighth year in the NFL, has picked up the knack of sensing where the trouble is coming from, of taking those quick and instinctive steps to buy time for his receivers. And when things are shut down he can scamper, as he did for nine yards for the touchdown that put Sunday's game away in the fourth quarter.
Griese sets up in the pocket and takes some tough hits, but he is no longer nimble. If things aren't going right, if he doesn't feel comfortable back there, his ball will do tricks. Another difference: the Colts have one quarterback. No one other than Jones has thrown a pass for them this year. The Dolphins are still trying to find their No. 1.
It is Friday, and Griese sits by the Dolphins' practice field, stares up into the cloudy Miami sky and talks of what brought Ponce de Leon to Florida more than 400 years ago. "I'm not as young as I used to be," Griese says. "My arm's not as strong as it used to be." He pauses for emphasis. "But I know when to drill the ball and when I don't have to. I know how to slow down a pass rush with fire-out blocking and draws. I know how to attack a defense."
It's an odd feeling, listening as the man Miami owner Joe Robbie once called "the cornerstone of our franchise" justifies his existence, but these are strange times for the Dolphins. It's five weeks into the season, and Coach Don Shula finds himself with a pitching staff made up entirely of relievers.
The starting Miami quarterback has yet to be the finishing quarterback. In a 17-7 loss to Buffalo in the opener, Griese was relieved by Don Strock, the seven-year veteran. Then came three victories—Strock getting the win over Cincinnati in relief of Griese, Griese relieving Strock to beat Atlanta, Griese relieving David Woodley, the rookie from LSU, to beat New Orleans. In the loss to the Colts, the Dolphins came close to getting a complete game, but with 43 seconds left, Woodley relieved Griese, who had banged up a shoulder.
Griese stepped into the Dolphins' lineup 13 years ago, a deft little scrambler from Purdue, and for a dozen seasons the Dolphins didn't worry much about the quarterback position. "In the early days I was operating behind the kind of line an expansion team usually puts together," he says. "I was throwing 30 to 40 passes every week and running for my life. It wasn't the ideal way to break in, but you pick up survival tricks, like the head bob and play fakes and little things to keep the pass rush off you. It's like working with mirrors, though. Sooner or later the percentages catch up with you, and you just have to have the weapons."
Griese never let his ego interfere with the game plan. Ten passes a game or 30, it made no difference to him. One afternoon—it was at the end of the '73 season, the Dolphins' second victorious Super Bowl year—Griese threw four touchdown passes in the first half against Detroit, and after the game, when the reporters asked him what's with all the air power, he gave them that bland look of his and said, "It was time to polish up our passing game for the playoffs."
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