One question has occurred to everyone, of course. What would Griese do in a heavy rainstorm? The quarterback answered it on Shula's television show. He appeared wearing huge, round specs with battery-powered wipers—a good gag for a man who is not particularly noted for his humor.
The Oilers found nothing humorous in Griese's performance. Two of Miami's scoring drives in the first quarter were close to perfection. Griese took the Dolphins 80 yards in nine plays, and then 82 yards in eight plays by mixing Benny Malone's running, both nifty and powerful, and his own expert passing. Griese even threw in one of the things he surely must lead the NFL in, and always has—cadence. Nobody can lure the opposition offside like Griese.
In the Dolphins' first scoring drive, the 80-yarder following the opening kickoff, Griese ran Malone in one direction, then threw to the opposite side. He twice passed on first down, something that would have happened in the old days only if he had suffered a concussion. The biggest play was a 21-yard, second-and-eight pass to Harris that got the Dolphins close enough—one yard—for Norm Bulaich to barge in on the next play.
Griese also began the 82-yard drive with Malone. He ran Malone twice for a total of 22 yards, and then on a second and one, Griese tricked the Oilers with a 27-yard pass to Harris. Two plays later he went to the ubiquitous Harris for 23 more yards. Perhaps just to show Houston that Harris wasn't his only receiver, Griese then hit Tillman, the tight end, over the middle for 11 yards, and very quickly Malone scored to give the Dolphins their 21-0 lead.
"People used to complain because we were dull, even when we were winning," Griese said. "This is a totally different kind of team. We're a good team, better than anyone thought. We've got explosiveness but we'll make mistakes. You can tell how different we are by the enthusiasm we have. We didn't used to yell and jump around in the dressing room like this."
As for all of that "Explo '77" business, it is actually a sales campaign to get the citizens of Miami interested in the Dolphins again. It was dreamed up by management to combat what a good many people, owner Joe Robbie excepted, felt was a rather dreary October schedule. Houston led it off but coming up soon in the Orange Bowl will be such pillars of the NFL community as the New York Jets, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers. While the Jets and Chargers stunned the world last Sunday, not to mention New England and Cincinnati, respectively, it remains to be seen how stunning they will continue to be. Miami is going ahead with its aggressive promotion to lure back the dropouts from the 74,000 people who used to buy season tickets. The number has dwindled to 35,000. and last year's 6-8 record, the first losing season Shula ever experienced, was hardly a selling point.
Shula has so rebuilt the Dolphins that only 10 of 22 starters remain from the team that won the AFC East in 1974. The new "No Name" defense for the Dolphins includes such luminaries as Kim Bokamper, Bob Baumhower, A.J. Duhe and Norris Thomas—or is it Thomas Norris?—but Shula had no complaints about their work against the Oilers.
"I like the people we have now," he said. "When you think about us in terms of those Super Bowl teams, you see some of the same faces, some of the important ones, like Griese and four-fifths of the offensive line. We don't have a Mercury Morris, but Malone is more powerful. We don't have Paul Warfield, but Nat Moore and Harris and Solomon can do more things. Maybe I put too much hope in some of our injured players the past two years. This year I said a player had to show me on the practice field that he could do it before he made the team. We haven't lost our zest around here. We work as hard as we ever did. Losing hasn't been easy to take, but it was a little easier because we had won. I think I'm as hungry as ever to win. I think we can win with these people."
Shula's most important statement concerned Griese, however: "He's absolutely better than he ever was."
Griese certainly was on Sunday. That's why the Dolphins awarded him the game lens.