Former Michigan QB Brian Griese taking team approach to Monday Night Football debut

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

The approach Brian Griese takes to broadcasting is exactly the way he played quarterback at Michigan and later in the NFL.

Griese will make his Monday Night Football debut next week in the second game of an ESPN doubleheader next week, calling the Titans-Broncos game in Denver, his hometown, along with booth mates Steve Levy on the play-by-play and Louis Riddick, with whom he will share the analyst duties.

Brian Griese was the starting quarterback for Michigan's 1997 national championship team. He'll make his Monday Night Football broadcasting debut on Monday.

While at Michigan, Griese led the 1997 team to an unbeaten season and the Associated Press national championship. In 1998, he was drafted in the third round by the Broncos. He joined ESPN’s college football broadcasts in 2009, a year after his NFL career ended, and now has elevated to this new role on Monday Night Football, which is in its 50th season.

He is not intimidated by his role in one of the biggest jobs in sports broadcasting.

“I’ve just in my career broadcasting continued to try to put one foot in front of the next, and to be better each and every year and make people around me better has been a goal of mine,” Griese said Wednesday in an ESPN conference call. “I really view success in this business not as to where I go, but where the team goes and how good of a job we can do in putting the best possible product on the air for the fan at home.

“And so I’ve never been driven by individual goals. I think that this opportunity is no different. I think it’s going to be, for all of us on this crew, it’ll be important that we maintain the ego, and check the ego at the door when you walk in the booth. It’s really good how well we harmonize together, and that’s not just in the booth and Lisa (Salters) down on the field, but it’s in the truck and it’s in the replay scenarios. It’s everybody, the camera guys. That’s how I look at it. That’s how I’ve always looked at it from when I was a player. I don’t think that this opportunity will be any different.”

Levy, who has worked for ESPN since 1993, described Griese is one of his closest friends. They worked together on college football. Riddick is a former defensive back and NFL front-office executive who joined ESPN in 2013. Salters is, according to ESPN, the longest-tenured sideline reporter in MNF history.

The three-man booth is an interesting dynamic with Griese and Riddick sharing the analysis. Dan Dierdorf, the former Michigan offensive lineman great who is in the College Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame, worked 12 seasons as a MNF analyst. Griese and Riddick, he said, will have to find their rhythm working the booth together, learning when to speak and when to listen to the other.

“Louis and Brian are going to have to figure something out and it’s what everybody has to do in a three-man booth,” Dierdorf said last week on The Detroit News’ “View from the Press Box” podcast. “They are sharing a job. The play-by-play man, he has his job 100% of the time. Louis and Brian are sharing a job, and they’re gonna have to be unselfish at times. Brian and Louis are going to have to figure it out and they’ll have to do it on a fly, how to really be teammates.”

Dierdorf is happy to see Griese get this assignment.

“I’m very proud that there’s another Michigan guy going to sit in that chair,” he said.

Griese described MNF not as a destination but as the beginning of a new journey. In that sense, he is not relaxing his determination to keep getting better at this job.

“I understand that nothing has been done to solidify anything other than the fact that we have an opportunity to go out and do what we love to do,” said Griese, whose father Bob also was a former NFL quarterback who has called NFL and college football games on NBC, ABC and ESPN during his broadcasting career. “I love covering football. I love interacting with the fan at home, creating that relationship with the fan and home and serving the fan.”

Dierdorf’s point of learning to balance of a three-man booth was not overlooked by Levy, Riddick or Griese during the conference call.

“Obviously having three people in a booth versus two people in a booth is different,” Griese said. “It’s different structurally, the amount of time that you have to talk and how you organize that is something that you have to work through. It’s going to be a work in progress, but I think as time goes on, we’ll develop our rhythm and, ultimately, I don’t view our role as showing up every week and trying to show people how much football we know. That’s not the point.

“The point is that people enjoy watching the show, that they’re engaged in the show, that they’re engaged relationally. What I mean by that is they want to spend three hours with us, that we’re going to have a good fun, that they’re going to be engaged mentally. They will learn something new watching the show, and at the very minimum they will know why the game was won or lost, whether that’s a decision by a player or a coach, et cetera, and they will be engaged emotionally because that’s always what’s the most interesting thing to me when we watch a football game.”

Riddick has no doubt they can pull this off.

“I’ll just be myself and we’ll all just play off of one another,” Riddick said. “I think we will sound like a group that has good chemistry. We’ll work to continue to always develop that chemistry even further. We’ll draw off of our vast knowledge base, and I think we’ll sound like a crew that really enjoys the game, no matter if it was being played in a parking lot or being played in a huge stadium, whether it was Pop Warner or whether it was professional football.

“I think you will hear us come off as a group that is just very much invested in the game and trying to, as Brian put it eloquently, serve the fan, while at the same time just kind of losing ourselves in the game and enjoying the process.”

Twitter: @chengelis