Robert Allen Grieses is the Dolphin who tries to project the image of a cold fish. In an interview his responses range from reticent to civil.
Only rarely did the Miami quarterback reflect any emotional reaction after sitting on the bench on Saturday while his team lost a meaningless game to the New York Jets.
In the dressing room, the media people crowded Griese away from his cubicle to court Don Strock, an outgoing type.
When it was suggested to Griese that the communicators were fickle, he said, "I like it; I won't have to talk to them; I can get out of here."
Because it was an insignificant game, Coach Don Shula was able to rest Griese's sore ribs.
"I like to spend a lot of time with my three sons," Griese said.
The product of Rex Mundi High in Evansville, Ind., was king of the world to Dolphin fans after taking Miami to two Super Bowl victories in 1972 and 1973.
He still is referred to fondly as "The Surgeon" and "The Chessmaster" when he successfully gets things going his way and disects defenses as if he had sat in on their strategy meetings.
But at age 34 and in the 13th season of his pro career, he has suffered the indignity of being benched for ineffectiveness. No matter that he agreed with the decision, almost clinically detached in his acknowledgement that "i am the quarterback and the offense was not productive."
It hurt. It hurt because fans and media translated what was a "slump" into "being finished." Publicly, Griese was caught up in the classic strait-jacket of his position.
He could not defend himself. It would be bad form to recite his accomplishments or, worse, place some blame where it belonged.He could only hope that some of the media were perceptive, to plead his case.
He had the inner satisfaction of coming off the bench after an overtime loss in Cleveland to direct victories over Baltimore, New England and Detroit (completing 17 of 22 passes in that one) for the Eastern Division title in the American Football Conference.
Yet, he insisted on Saturday while resting, "My feeling is no different than it was last week.
"This year we have two weeks off. Last year we played on a Sunday, eight days later on a Monday, and five days after that, on a Saturday in the playoffs (against Houston, which won, 17-9, in the game between wild-card teams).
"It looks like no home games in this year's playoffs," he said, and that opened up a sensitive line of questioning, because it has been said of Griese that he does not play well in the hostile environment of important road games.
How important is playing at home?
"Houston has a big advantage because the Astrodome is enclosed and the fans are very vocal," he said.
How about cold weather in a place such as Pittsburgh?
"Weather is just a state of mind; once the game begins you forget and don't let it bother you."
That brought up the issue of his wearing glasses. After the Dolphins lost earlier in the season in New England, it was said the quarterback was through. Critics claimed he couldn't see properly and could not throw long because he not able to get follow-through momentum due to a chronic hamstring muscle pull in his push-off leg.
Do the glasses bother him in different climates, when they get wet or cloud up from condensation? "Well, I've been wearing them for two years," he said. "But, yes, they are bound to bother me some."
After experiencing double vision in 1976, he tried contact lenses in the offseason of 1977. Actually, he was legally blind (20-200 vision) when he directed the Dolphins to Super Bowl victories after the 1972 and 1973 seasons.
He became the first NFL quarterback ever to wear conventional glasses (for the 1977 season) after he disclosed that he had lived under "a constant cloud of uncertainty." He removed the glasses once that season during a downpour in Seattle and completed two passes he attempted.
If he is successful in following that first pair of glasses, he will make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where they were sent after the 1977 season.
Of the current status of the Dolphins and himself, he said, "This is where you want to be at this time of the year. We are in good shape going into the playoffs. At this time of the year your concentration and determination are better."
As to criticism he has received, he said, "A lot of teams aren't in the playoffs."
He would not say how much is left to his football career, but said of his overall state of mind, "I have a good life . . . pardon me, I've got to run." o