Dolphins have quarterback controversy

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2003

DAVIE, Fla. Brian Griese's first pass went for a touchdown. His first six passes were complete. His only incomplete pass in the first half was dropped.

With a fast start in his first start for the Miami Dolphins, Griese made it clear he wants to stay in the lineup.

And he may.

Coach Dave Wannstedt said Tuesday he was pleased with the way Griese sparked the Dolphins' sputtering offense in Monday night's 26-10 victory over San Diego.

Replacing an injured Jay Fiedler, Griese threw for 192 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. Wannstedt said he would decide Wednesday whether to stay with Griese in Sunday's AFC showdown against the Indianapolis Colts.

''Brian played really well,'' Wannstedt said. ''He made good decisions, got rid of the ball and was really into the game. He was in tune to what they were doing and what we were trying to do.''

The health of the two quarterbacks may help determine which starts Sunday.

Fiedler, who sprained his left knee in a loss to New England on Oct. 19, dressed Monday night but was designated the No. 3 quarterback because he's still hobbled. Griese had a little swelling in his right thumb after the victory, although Wannstedt said he didn't believe the injury was serious.

Several comments by the coach suggested he's leaning toward making Griese's promotion permanent. Wannstedt said a starter knocked out of the lineup by an injury Fiedler, for instance isn't assured of keeping his job.

Wannstedt said Griese releases the ball more quickly than Fiedler, an advantage once Miami's receivers adjust their timing.

''You saw two or three routes where the receiver wasn't quite ready,'' Wannstedt said. ''You put that on the receiver. He's got to anticipate it's going to be out quicker with Brian than it is with Jay.''

Wannstedt also said he expects Griese to be even better with a start under his belt. The game was his first since being sidelined during the exhibition season by a toe injury.

''If he plays this week, you would like to believe he would be more comfortable than he was,'' Wannstedt said. ''And it being a home game should help.''

The Dolphins (5-2) play three of their next four games in Miami, beginning with Indianapolis (6-1).

Griese helped forge a 24-3 halftime lead with touchdown passes of 5 yards to Chris Chambers, 2 yards to James McKnight and 7 yards to Randy McMichael. He finished 20-for-29 despite having at least three passes dropped.

''It was pretty special,'' Griese said. ''I wanted to contribute to the team in some way, shape or form, and I had the opportunity to go out there and play. I felt great. It was exciting. On Monday night football, I don't think I could ask for anything more.''

For the Dolphins, it was the best performance by a quarterback named Griese since at least 1980. That year Brian's father, Bob, ended his Hall of Fame career with the Dolphins.

The younger Griese benefited from good field position, thanks to three interceptions by the Dolphins, and he enjoyed excellent protection against a defense ranked 28th in the NFL. Still, the offense clicked in a way it hasn't with Fiedler, who has thrown five interceptions and just two touchdown passes in his past four games.

The Dolphins are 33-15 with Fiedler starting, but he has led them to only one postseason victory since succeeding Dan Marino in 2000.

Griese signed as a free agent in June after four years as Denver's starter. He was expected to make a run at Miami's No. 1 job, but his toe injury postponed any quarterback question until now.

Wannstedt is confident the debate regarding who starts won't be divisive for the Dolphins.

''Our guys want to win,'' he said. ''They know part of my job is to do what I feel is best for the team.''

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