Martin Fennelly Columns
Fennelly: Griese Answers Call To Arm
CHICAGO - We hit the locker room, looking for Top Gun. He was nowhere to be found. Instead, we were greeted with an understatement. "Brian might take a while," a Bucs media assistant said. "I think he's getting ice." The Bucs reportedly placed a takeout order with Antarctica. When Iceman did cometh, we were stunned that his right arm wasn't in a sling, or hadn't become 4 inches longer than his left. If I was his arm, I'd get a lawyer and sue him for an arm and a leg."That's probably the most balls I've thrown in one day my entire life," Griese said. Ya think? The Bucs had come from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears 27-24 in overtime at Soldier Field, Only then did Griese lay down his arm. He had thrown 67 passes, just three shy of an NFL record. Griese had thrown in everything but the towel. Yeah, this is how little Jonny Gruden drew up a game in his bedroom while he was growing up, as if he has ever grown up. "I've never been in a game like that," Bucs receiver Ike Hilliard said. And Hilliard played for Steve Spurrier at Florida. Sunday, Thor's right-hand man was Brian Griese. Shouldn't he have been on a pitch count or something? I mean, my arm hurts just from watching. When Mr. 67 was done, he had career highs with 38 completions and 407 yards. He completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jerramy Stevens with 7 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and hit Antonio Bryant for 38 yards to the Bears' 6 to set up Matt Bryant's winning chip shot. Throw in the fact that it came in Chicago against the team that discarded Griese in favor of Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman. Griese threw it in. "I can't lie to you guys," he said. "The game meant a lot to me personally." It meant a lot to his head coach, too, who gleefully hippy-hopped onto the field after the win. I think Gruden and his playbook probably went out for a quiet dinner Sunday night, just the two of them. "That was one of the great gut checks I've ever been associated with," Gruden said. "And for Brian Griese ... He's sitting there with three interceptions, down 10, and to bring us back like he did today speaks volumes to the type of football player he is." It didn't start out Fun 'n' Gun. Griese's second pass was tipped and intercepted. Jeff Garcia didn't throw an interception in his first seven starts as a Buc. Don't forget that. Gruden has. Garcia has been banished to SimmsLand, from which there is no return. "He missed some throws," Gruden said of Griese. "He'll tell you that. We wanted to come in throwing the football today, and that we did." That they did. Even so, wing nut Jonny's quarterback had only attempted a relatively human 29 passes after 45 minutes. Then the world went mad. Using the no-huddle and shotgun, Griese threw 24 times in the fourth quarter alone, 26 if you count the plays erased by penalty. Down 10 points, he threw on 22 consecutive plays across two drives to tie it. The Bucs didn't run it once. It was insane - and it worked. "This is not a recipe for success later in the year," Griese said. He was Chef Fantastic when it mattered, settling his team down with a helping of cool and calm. Did we mention Bucs blockers didn't allow a sack? Think about all the routes the receivers ran. Everyone was exhausted. No one tired of praising Griese. "I hope his arm never falls off," Bucs receiver Michael Clayton said. It was attached when we last saw it. Griese already could imagine what his deadpan dad, Hall of Fame quarterback Bob, would say. "He'll say you guys had four turnovers, you didn't run the ball, on the road, you should have lost." That they didn't. Brian Griese smiled. "This is as tired as I've ever been." His arm snored the whole way home.