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.

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

It’s lonely at the top, which is where Markelle Fultz sits on almost every 2017 NBA Draft board. The Brooklyn Nets should be set for the next decade with a big time scoring point guard. Instead, it’s the Boston Celtics who have no choice but to take Fultz with the No. 1 overall selection after a savvy trade that sent veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for a stack of picks and players back in 2013.

Fultz can do it all. He’s deadly from the outside, he can take you off the bounce and he has elite passing skills to boot. In a draft packed with star potential, specifically at the point guard position, the freshman from Washington stands out well above the rest.  

It would take a major shake up at the top for Fultz not to have his name called first on draft night, but there are plenty of very talented players sitting on the board behind him. Here is a deeper look at the potential top overall selection.

The Positives:
Fultz has tremendous size, length and athleticism for an NBA point guard. He measured in at 6-foot-5, 195-pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and has a frame built to take on muscle. At just 19-years-old, he is already well defined physically and has plenty of room to grow and get stronger.

A crafty, high-end scorer, Fultz changes speed and direction well and has an advanced Euro-step for a young player. He averaged 23.2 points in 35.7 minutes a night for the Huskies while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three. He can score from all three levels, finish well above the rim and play through contact.

In his lone season in college, Fultz showed that he is not only a legitimate scoring threat, but he is a willing passer and an unselfish teammate. While Lonzo Ball is considered the true pass first point guard of the draft, Fultz had a higher assist rate (35.5 to 31.5) and lower turnover rate (13.4 to 18.2) than the star guard from UCLA.

Fultz rebounds well for his position, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game at Washington. He also has potential as a defender, posting 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks, although he is a work in progress on that end of the floor.

Known as a high-character kid and tireless worker off the court, Fultz has the entire package. He can also play the lead or shooting guard spot, which will come in handy if the Celtics decide to pair him with All-Star Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.

The Negatives:
9-16 is a concern. Great college players should be able to will their team to victory, even if the talent around them is suspect. Washington was certainly worse off without Fultz down the stretch, losing their last six while he sat with a knee injury.

Shot selection and sloppy ball handling was also an issue this season. In Fultz’ defense, he played with a group that lacked overall talent and those issues might eventually disappear when he’s added to a roster that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  

Fultz is a quality chase down defender, but he fell asleep on plenty of plays or didn’t show a consistent fight on the defensive end. Lack of focus allowed for plenty of back cuts. He also showed an inconsistent effort fighting through screens.

He’s a work in progress on the defensive end, like most young players coming into the league. Most of these issues can easily be coached out of him at the next level.

Projection:
Fultz has an advanced feel and tons of room to expand his game. On the court, he resembles another former Husky in Brandon Roy. Fultz is much further along than Roy was at the same age, but possesses both the ability to score from anywhere on the court, as well as rebound and set up his teammates.  

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics passing on Fultz with the top overall selection, but if they do, teams will scramble trying to move up to select him. He would fit perfectly in the Kings starting backcourt alongside sophomore Buddy Hield, but Sacramento lacks the assets to move from five to one, Fultz’ likely landing spot.

 

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.