WIth all of the focus on the New Orleans Saints' bounty program, Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese spoke yesterday with the Associated Press about the need for bounties - or lack thereof - during his playing days, and the 40 years since the Dolphins completed the league's only undefeated season.
"Everybody would try to get the quarterbacks out of the game back then," according to Griese. "They weren't paid for it. They would just try to knock you out.
"In today's game, these defensive ends come around, if they've got a blind shot at you, they're not going to try to hit you in the back and try to take you out of the game, they're going to slap the ball out of your hand. Back then, Deacon Jones was coming. Ben Davidson was coming. All those guys. They were saying, 'I got [Joe] Namath last week, I got Griese this week.'"
And, Griese knows exactly how that feels. He missed most of that undefeated 1972 season after Jones broke his ankle on a play early in the season. Griese would eventually return during the playoffs to lead the Dolphins to an underdog win over the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl, and a 17-0 season record.
"It wasn't malicious, it was just hard hitting," the 1990 Hall of Fame inductee stated. "There were no bounties. They kind of knew that if you know the quarterback out of the game, you had a pretty good chance of winning."
"The game has evolved and the rules have changed," Griese continued. "It's what peopple want. It's because the rules have changed and they are protecting the quarterback. You don't want your quarterback knocked out. You want him in there every week, all season long, so you're not watching some third-string guy, wishing you had Peyton Manning in there."
Griese also said he had spoken to another Dolphins legend, former head coach Don Shula, recently about that magical 1972 season. "We were just together the other day. And, we were just kind of looking at each othere and saying, 'Can you believe it's been 40 years?'"
The Dolphins nearly had company in the undefeated population back during the 2007-2008 season. The New England Patriots took an unblemished record into the Super Bowl, only to lose to the New York Giants.
"When [Plaxico Burress] caught that touchdown pass in the end zone, there was still some time left on the clock," Griese remembers. "I'm sitting at home, watching in my office, and the phone starts ringing, the e-mails start coming in. I said, 'Wait, there's still 35, 40 second left.'
"I didn't think the Giants could beat them. I thought the Patriots would go unbeaten for sure. But now, I'm a big Giants fan from now on."
Now, 40 years removed from the NFL's lone perfect team, Griese looked back at the accomplishment, remembering what it was like after the Super Bowl. At the time, Griese said, the team just thought of themselves as Super Bowl champions, not realizing how big an accomplishment the 17-0 record was.
"The more it's gone on, we've thought, 'Oh, that must be something really special.' And, it really is. It's tough to go undefeated."