SaberCats QB Grieb shines as O-coordinator

SaberCats QB Grieb shines as O-coordinator
April 5, 2012, 8:07 pm
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It's Tuesday morning at the San Jose SaberCats complex in Sunnyvale and the team's offensive players are gathered in a group meeting listening to their offensive coordinator break down the week's game plan. Only this isn't just any offensive coordinator, it's also the team's quarterback ... Arena Football legend Mark Grieb.

And when Grieb talks, his teammates listen.

But what's most striking about the way he commands the room isn't the reverence with which he's received, it's the ease with which he's handling the role. For the first time in his pro football career, Grieb is his own offensive coordinator.

Everyone realizes this means Grieb is calling his own plays in games but few people think about him also having to teach those plays to his team, practice them on the field and discuss how they'll be implemented with his team during the week.

From the outside looking in, he appears to be handling the role with relative ease. This should hardly be surprising considering his pedigree both on and off the field.

As a player, Grieb has more than stood the test of time. When he first arrived on the Bay Area sports scene in 1999 Steve Young was still the 49ers QB, Barry Bonds had yet to join the 500 Home Run Club and Antawn Jamison was just wrapping up his rookie season as a Warrior. All those players are long, long gone but Grieb is still going strong.

But it's Grieb's off the field growth that might be serving him most in his newly adapted role as both QB and OC. During the SaberCats two-year hiatus from existence Grieb earned his teaching credential and went back to school. He spent his two years away from football teaching high school biology in Southern California.

And in watching Grieb lead his teammates in an offensive meeting, printed out diagrams and notes in hand, it's obvious his time in front of the high-schoolers has him well suited to taking on this new task. He has clearly evolved into a coach in every sense of the word, knowing exactly what he wants out of his players, how to convey that so they understand and most importantly, how to get them to believe in his teachings.

Grieb's prowess in the job is so impressive it actually presents minor obstacles. Take last week's win in Spokane for instance.

With the SaberCats up 35 points late in the 4th quarter it was obvious Grieb's services as a QB were no longer needed. It was a perfect time to put in rookie backup Danny Southwick. Only one problem. If Grieb left the game so too did the team's OC.

Clearly Southwick couldn't call the plays. If Grieb were pulled the situation would get sticky. Grieb would have to relay the plays to Head coach Darren Arbet through a headset and Arbet would then have to relay them to Southwick -- not very efficient.

So the 'Cats left Grieb in the game... until he sustained a minor injury on his final series, that is. After that the "telephone" game was on.

(For the record the Grieb-Arbet-Southwick relay team engineered a touchdown drive to close out the scoring for the SaberCats).

There are whispers Grieb's playing days could be drawing to a close but for now those are just whispers. Whenever Grieb does hang up the shoulder pads a move to a fulltime OC and eventually fulltime head coach is all but a certainty.

For his part, the soon-to-be 38-year-old refuses to say just how long he'll continue this dual role with the 'Cats and there's little reason to really think about stopping. Through three games this season he's in the top 3 in most of the AFL's passing stat categories and the offense is averaging the second most points in the league.

More importantly, the SaberCats are just a single point away from being unbeaten in 2012 and Grieb is clearly still having a blast. His team is one of the favorites to win the title this summer and if that happens there's little doubt Grieb will be feeling the itch to defend his title much more than walk away on top.