SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Brian Griese had established himself in a second career that had been more successful than his first as an 11-year quarterback in the NFL.
Griese had followed up more than a decade analyzing big college football games each week with two years in the prized role as analyst on “Monday Night Football” when he decided he was ready for another career change.
With ESPN looking to go a different direction in the booth, Griese went an entirely different direction in his career, leaving the work of a broadcaster to get back into the grind of the NFL as quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
“I got to a point where I needed a new challenge,” he said. “That coupled with the moment where ESPN decided to go in a different direction, I’m not saying they didn’t, but they got a bigger fish. I understand the dynamics of that. I always knew that that possibility and probably likelihood was out there. But I did get to do it at the highest level for two years, and I loved every minute of it. So I had a decision to make at that point. This opportunity came up, and it was a challenge that I wanted to run towards and not away from this.”
Griese has a big challenge in his first opportunity at coaching at any level, tasked with helping last year's No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance develop into the franchise quarterback the Niners believe he could be after trading three first-round picks to get him.
Griese's path to San Francisco was forged in part by his relationship with coach Kyle Shanahan's father, Mike, who coached Griese in Denver for his first five seasons. Mike Shanahan set up the initial meeting that led to Griese taking the job in San Francisco.
Kyle Shanahan said he's been impressed by his new coach's attention to detail as Griese has said it was important for him to make a strong impression on the more experienced coaches on the staff.
“I think they appreciate that I was coming here with no agendas,” Griese said. “I’m not trying to get to the next coaching job. I’m not trying to leapfrog people. I'm just coming here to see if I could be a good football coach. I have a lot of experiences and a lot of relationships that have built up over time and a lot of understanding of the game and how to play the game from the quarterback position.”
Griese comes into the job having played at the highest level, winning a national championship in college at Michigan, being a backup to John Elway on a Super Bowl-winning team as a rookie, then replacing a legend the following season.
In all, Griese started 83 games in his 11 NFL seasons, with highs like a Pro Bowl bid in 2000 to lows like getting cut or benched multiple times. He brings that perspective to his new career.
“There’s very few positions in sports more high stress than being a quarterback in the NFL and there’s no way around it,” he said. “We don’t talk about eliminating or running away from stressful situations. We talk about how are you going to cope? How are you going to manage? Because the rough times, the rough waters will come. They come for everybody, no matter who you are.”
Griese said in one of his first meetings with Lance and the other quarterbacks, he asked his players why they were NFL quarterbacks. He said that in order to succeed through tough times, it's important to have priorities of playing for your teammates instead of more personal goals.
Griese said he's been impressed by Lance's attitude as much as his immense skill.
“I’m excited that he comes to work every day and he’s humble and he wants to get better,” he said. “I view it the same way I have my entire life, whether I’ve been playing or broadcasting or now being a coach, I come here with humility and we’re going to get better together and we check the ego at the door. He does that every single day. He comes to work. That gives him a chance to be successful.”
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