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49ers go in a unique direction, hire former NFL QB Brian Griese as quarterbacks coach

Kyle Shanahan is relying on familiarity over experience in picking the coach to help Trey Lance develop.

Monday Night Football announcer Brian Griese looks on prior to the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 8, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

According to a report by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham and Adam Schefter, the San Francisco 49ers are hiring Brian Griese as their next quarterbacks’ coach. Griese is replacing Rich Scangarello, who left to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky this offseason.

Griese played in the NFL from 1998-to-2008 and has been a broadcaster at ESPN since 2009. He joined ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast team in 2020, where he will now leave to become a key contributor in helping quarterback Trey Lance develop.

The move is simultaneously surprising and falls in line with a consistent trend throughout head coach Kyle Shanahan’s tenure in San Francisco. During his time as the 49ers’ top decision-maker, Shanahan has prioritized his own trust, familiarity, and often shared background with people over their previous experiences; general manager John Lynch remains the most prominent example of this.

While Griese has no prior coaching experience, at least at the NCAA or NFL level, he is familiar with Shanahan-style offenses. Griese was drafted by the Broncos in 1998 when Mike Shanahan was the team’s head coach, where Griese played under Shanahan until he was released in 2002. Later in his career, Griese played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Kyle Shanahan was working as a quality control coach.

In a fun little side note, the late great Bill Walsh told Peter King back in 1998 that had he had the first overall pick that year, when the NFL world was debating whether the Colts should draft Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf, he would have selected a non-quarterback in the first round with the intention of drafting Brian Griese later in the draft.

It’s also worth mentioning Griese’s connections to NFL history. Griese is the son of Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese, who played for the Miami Dolphins from 1967-to-1980 and worked in sports broadcasting from 1982-to-2017.

Depending on your perspective, you can spin that in multiple directions. Griese grew up in and around the NFL and should have plenty of experience in NFL quarterback rooms to help young Trey Lance succeed as the franchise’s quarterback. At the same time, it also follows the NFL’s continued pattern of recycling familiar names for prominent opportunities over more qualified candidates.

Predicting if someone will or will not be a good coach, particularly when that person has no track record to evaluate in coaching, is always tricky. However, it’s undeniable that this move comes with some tremendous risks. The 49ers are prepared to transition to Trey Lance at quarterback.

Even if Griese becomes a good coach, it will likely come with some growing pains. Something adding a proven and more experienced coach likely could have prevented. Hopefully, though, his combined experience as an NFL quarterback, analyst, and familiarity with Shanahan-style offenses will give Griese a strong foundation to become an excellent coach.