SaberCats QB Grieb shines as O-coordinator

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SaberCats QB Grieb shines as O-coordinator

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.

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

'The Kid' Arroyo continues wildly impressive first week with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — In a quiet moment in the dugout Friday, manager Bruce Bochy tried to figure out a nickname for his new budding star. During a week where Christian Arroyo has made the game look so easy, this has turned out to be the most difficult part. 

Bochy briefly settled on “Yo” before that was scuttled because the team’s video coordinator is Yo Miyamoto. Joe Panik said some players have tried C.A. or YoYo, but admitted that neither is all that good. The team’s Twitter account spent a few days trying to make Boss Baby a thing, but Arroyo wasn’t thrilled with that one and the experiment appears to be over. In a back room of the clubhouse, there’s a printout showing Arroyo and Buzz from “Home Alone,” but that comparison is much better made with Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman. 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as the path Arroyo’s bat takes to a fastball. As he watched Arroyo field grounders during batting practice, Dick Tidrow was asked about the 21-year-old. Tidrow, the team’s senior VP of player personnel, has seen and worked with Arroyo since he was drafted. 

“We always just called him The Kid,” Tidrow said. “He would turn around when I called him Kid.”

The Kid is growing up quickly. Arroyo’s second homer of the week was the game-winner Friday, an eighth-inning blast that put a lead in Mark Melancon’s hands. The new closer made sure the new third baseman’s homer didn’t go to waste, clinching a 4-3 win that got the Giants out of the National League West’s cellar. 

The homer might have surprised Arroyo as much as anyone. He came here with a reputation as a mature and talented hitter, but power is not his calling card. 

“I’m not trying to hit a homer there,” he said. “Get the head out, see a pitch over the plate, barrel something, just keep the line moving. I got a good pitch, elevated it, and fortunately it went out.”

Arroyo already speaks like a hitting coach, but he is not afraid to admit that there are things he doesn’t know. It’s easy to get film on opposing starters, but there’s little a rookie can do to prepare for late-inning pitching changes. Arroyo consulted Buster Posey and Conor Gillaspie before facing Ryan Buchter, who has been in the division for two years. Gillaspie told him Buchter’s fastball has some late life and gets on a hitter. 

“I wanted to see it and the first pitch was a little low so I got a good read on them,” Arroyo said. 

The second one was right at the belt and Arroyo pulled it down the line for his second big league homer. He had just three last year in Double-A, but the Giants felt the 36 doubles showed that power was on the way. 

“He’s got pop,” Bochy said. “He’s not a guy trying to hit homers. He tries to put a good swing on it. But he drives balls and you saw it tonight. We see him more as a gap guy, but he’ll get more power as he gets older. We’re not asking him to hit homers, trust me, but it’s good to see him letting it go.”

The homer secured a win on a night when a lot went right. Jeff Samardzija was sharp, paying for one pitch to Ryan Schimpf that left the park but otherwise pitching seven strong. Panik and Brandon Belt ignited the offense early and Michael Morse came through with a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth. Derek Law and Mark Melancon closed it out, with Melancon getting help from Panik, who made a spectacular tumbling catch on a flare to shallow right-center. It was a big first out given that Melancon was pitching for the third straight day. 

“It was going to be in no man’s land,” Panik said. “You give it everything you’ve got. Fortunately the ball stayed in the glove.”

When it was over, the youngest Giant was in for another round of interviews to cap a hectic week. On Monday he made his debut and on Tuesday he picked up his first hit. Wednesday brought the first homer and Thursday was the first multi-hit game. What will the weekend include? Maybe a real nickname? 

For now, the Giants are fine with leaning on The Kid, because many of them didn’t even know how young the star of the week was until he was a couple of days into his big league career.

“I was thinking he was 23 or 24,” Samardzija said. “This has been really impressive.”

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

Vanderdoes out to 'prove people wrong,' show Raiders his very best

ALAMEDA – Eddie Vanderdoes knows his UCLA game tape is inconsistent. The powerful defensive tackle admits he wasn’t always at his best, especially after tearing his ACL in 2015. Before that, he was difficult to stop. Afterward, he wasn’t the same player. He doesn’t blame the knee.

He struggled with ankle injuries and weight issues in 2016, a lackluster campaign by his own standard. Since that season ended, Vanderdoes has returned to 100 percent. His ankles are fine. His knee is great. And he lost 40 pounds heading into the NFL scouting combine, preparing for a return to his old self.

The Raiders see great potential in the former Bruin and made him their third-round pick on Friday evening. The Auburn native was excited by the prospect, and believes the Raiders will get his absolute best. His voice was passionate, his determination clear even on a conference call with local press.

“I am going to be the player I was earlier in my career,” Vanderdoes said. “I had a bad season. That wasn’t me. That’s not the person that I am. That’s not the character that I hold. I’m definitely going to bring that to the Raiders’ defensive line. I’m going to bring that energy and I’m really happy to be an Oakland Raider.”

The Raiders will be thrilled if that’s true. They liked what he showed at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine, where he showed traits that should translate to NFL production.

“I am definitely back 100 percent, very confident with the combine, the Senior Bowl,” Vanderdoes said. “I got my explosiveness back. I got my speed back, my athleticism back. I am definitely at the top of shape right now, so I’m ready to get back to work and show them the player that they saw on the film and the player that they wanted to draft and I’m also looking to turn even more heads and do things that some people might expect that I couldn’t do.”

That includes rushing the passer, being a consistent three-down tackle in the Raiders scheme. He might be a rotational player first, filling the void created when Stacy McGee left in free agency.

“He’s a good, active defensive lineman that we think his best football is in front of him,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He had an ACL (injury) a couple of years ago. His weight has been up and down. We expect him to come in here and be a real professional and work hard with (head strength and conditioning coach) Joe Gomes and the strength staff and get himself ready to roll. He needs to come in here and add depth to our defensive line and give us a little interior push.”

Vanderdoes believes he can do more than that if he does things right. If his weight stays down, strength stays up and he learns the system well, he wants to compete for a significant role as a rookie.

“I’m coming in expecting to contribute and play right away,” Vanderdoes said. “That’s the mindset that I’ve always had. I’ve came with that mindset that I need to be the guy to step in and do what I do and dominate. I definitely think people slept on me a little bit this past offseason.

“I love the fact that (the NFL) slept on me, I think that’s what motivated me every morning waking up, knowing that I get to prove people wrong. I think I’ve done a good job so far of that, and I’m going to keep doing as well being an Oakland Raider because I know I’m at the bottom again. I have to work my way back up.”