Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Case For Joe Cox...

So, in the midst of all this amazing QB debate garbage, I thought I'd write a piece that will likely sound pretty strange to those who have been followers of my blog, or know me personally. I'm here to tell you why Georgia fans should be happy that Joe Cox was our quarterback in 2009.

Still reading? I'm actually a bit surprised, but glad to have your eyes. Let's get to it.

Now, if you aren't a David Hale reader...first off, shame on you. Secondly, you should check out this blog about this year's QB Battle. In it, you will find stats from last year's spring practices as well. These numbers had many people calling for Aaron Murray to be the starter from day one last year, and some others saying at the very least, Gray should be sharing equal reps with Joe Cox. Statistically, Cox was pretty weak in the spring.

As it turned out during the season, Cox's yards-per-attempt (7.8) was much better than in spring (5.3), his completion percentage was 4.9% higher (59.9 v 55), but his TD:INT ratio was terrible - 8:5 vs 3:1. THAT my friend, is the big knock on Cox. That's why people say he was so awful. That is why he will not be remembered with great fondness by a large percentage of the fanbase. However, I think those who are quick to paint Cox in a bad light should take a couple of things into consideration.

First - What were the options for Bobo and Richt? They could go with their fifth-year senior, the strong leader who the team trusted and would rally behind. Or, they could go with a sophomore option-style quarterback who had never gotten his feet wet in a game, and whose numbers were better in spring, but would ultimately prove to be a falsehood in the fall. Or, they could go with the true freshman who had all the fans going bananas during spring practice, but who obviously needed more time to learn the playbook and the system.

Still, today, many fans wish they'd seen Murray get the nod. Nevermind the fact that the kid was hurt for much of the season, and wouldn't have been at 100%. Nevermind the fact that he wouldn't be likely to check in and out of plays at the line (often checking OUT of a bad play is the best call a QB makes). No, the statline is the lone deciding factor for many of these fans.

These fans are nuts.

Look at Buck Bellue's stat line in the 1980 Sugar Bowl and tell me that's a performance you'd ever want to see. It was only good enough for a National Championship.

But, forget about 30 years ago. Let's look back to less than 12 months ago.

GM 1 - Joe Cox wasn't at 100% ... we all know that. I submit to you that if not for a phantom personal-foul against Reshad Jones on a perfectly legal hit, we win that game. Do you think the freshman with tendonitis would have fared well in that hostile environment? What about Logan? Would taking his first real snap in Stillwater have been the way to go? No. The answer is obvious. You go with Joe, if at all possible. You're not going to convince me that having Logan OR Aaron in that game would have given us a "W". 0 - 1

GM 2 - South Carolina rolls into town, bringing a stingy, blitzing defense. Cox was serviceable in this game. He even overcame the late pick to lead the team down and get the winning field goal. If Gray or Murray is in the game, the best we do is still win it. 1 - 1

GM 3 - Arkansas - without Cox, we don't win this one. That game became a shoot-out in the second quarter, and neither Gray nor Murray would have held their own against Mallet in that game. Neither defense played particularly well, but once again, this one was a big road game, this time IN the SEC. Cox's field knowledge gave him the leg-up up. Without Joe, we lose that one. 1 - 2

GM 4 - ASU - Cox wasn't brilliant, but didn't need to be. ASU really didn't have a shot in that one. In fact, Cox's less than stellar performance was the entire reason ASU was in that game. I think Murray or Gray would have been fine. 2 - 2

GM 5 - LSU - it pains me to even remember this game. This is the one game where I think having a running-type qb in the game may have helped us out. Joe had a great 4th quarter, and our defense had kept us in the game...but Cox was bad on 3rd down for much of that game. Our running game had yet to appear, so on 3rd and 4, we were forced to call pass plays. I'd like to think that a run-pass QB option would have been effective. I just don't know. I doubt that either Gray or Murray would have had the 4th that Cox had, but they may have played the other 3 quarters better, making the comeback run in the 4th unnecessary. Then again, against John Chavis? I doubt it. 2 - 3

GM 6 - TN - No way, no how. The defense had absolutely no answer for the play action pass (seriously?), and Monte Kiffin had his defense on search and destroy. Sorry, neither Gray nor Murray wins it. 2 - 4

GM 7 - Vandy - Vandy was just plain overmatched. Our QB wouldn't likely have made much a difference. This is one of the games where I wanted to see somebody getting some reps. 3 - 4

GM 8 - Florida - Come on. - 3 - 5

GM 9 - Tennessee Tech - Come on. (of course, UGA didn't score after Cox left) 4 - 5

GM 10 - Auburn - We don't win this without Joe. The way Auburn jumped on us early, the way we couldn't get the running game going. Who's gonna get the guys on the comeback trail? Is it Murray, who at this point in the season was rehabbing injury, or is it Gray, who had proven in his few minutes against FL that he wasn't ready for prime time? Sorry folks, no Joe, no W. 4 - 6

GM 11 - UK - Many people blame the UK loss on Joe Cox, and I think he definitely deserves a good bit of it. Those 2nd half interceptions were unbelievable. I actually watched that game on Tivo, knowing that we were going to lose, and at halftime, I couldn't figure out how it was going to happen. Still, don't forget all three of UGA's TDs in the game came from the arm of Joe Cox. I say we still lose to KY. 4 - 7

GM 12 - Georgia Tech - This one's not too difficult to call. We still win. Joe was pretty nonexistent in this one. At least he didn't throw a pick. This was the gameplan we'd liked to have seen for UGA all year, run, run, toss one to keep them honest, blow them out. 5 - 7

Bowl? Nope.

What else? Well, at 5 - 7, Damon Evans might have been persuaded to listen to the yahoos calling for Mark Richt's head. So, he could very well be gone right now. That'd be a tragedy.

Instead, we're coming off a down year, yes, but one that the team can build on. I've said in my blog before that Richt has now had two long-term UGA quarterbacks who've done things two ways, redshirted (Greene) and thrown into the fire (Stafford). Who here remembers which one was the more successful college quarterback? Who remembers which one was the more naturally gifted? Ok, now, look at a kid like Aaron Murray. He's Naturally Gifted, AND because of Joe Cox, he's had a year to learn the system before he ever has to take a meaningful snap in a game.

ALSO because of Joe Cox, Zach Mettenburger has benefited from a true quarterback competition. He has grown by leaps and bounds. Had either Gray or Murray been annointed the starter in 2009, that would put Metts YEARS behind in his own mind. He'd be playing "catch-up". Instead, he's been pushing himself to be the starter.

ALSO because of Joe Cox, Mark Richt is back in the film room and will be a bigger part of QB development. Perhaps this is EXACTLY why Stafford and Cox didn't develop as well as we'd have liked. I don't know, but it would make sense. Richt had a pretty good history of developing QBs at FSU, and David Greene and Shockley both succeeded under his watch. As he stepped back though, it appears that the progress diminished. Looks like he doesn't want that happening any more.

Long story short, Joe Cox starting in 2009 was best for Georgia then, and it's best for Georgia's future. Whoever wins this quarterback battle in the fall will go into the season having prepared his best simply to win the job. He will have good knowledge of the offense, and will have faced scrutiny from the coach most qualified to offer it. And, he will continue to work to be the best, because he will have others pushing for his position. Without Joe Cox, we lose much of that.

Way to go, Joe.

Go Dawgs.


Unknown said...

could NOT have said that any better my self.

Cousin Pat said...

Fantastic post.

Michael said...

This post is kinda worthless when every single loss you say "oh well, we woulda lost anyway without Joe" but give no reasons.

We beat UK with one of our other QBs. He totally blew that game.

We probably beat OSU with a different QB as well. Joe was sick as heck. Rewatch the game. His skin was GREY colored.

We win those 2 games with another QB, but like you say we may have lost another 1-2. So its a bit of a wash.

To make a legit point here, you have to at least give the W to the non-Joe QB when Joe clearly lost the game.

Ben Dukes said...


I don't have to do that. The game against OSU would not have been CLOSE under Logan Gray or Aaron Murray. I'm assuming you watched that game. Joe's performance wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible, either. That game was lost when we had a huge stop negated by a non-existent penalty, and the Cowboys capitalized a few plays later. That's when the big momentum swing hit, and we were unable to claw our way out from under it. We didn't have a running game to rely on, Logan Gray wasn't strong enough as a QB to get the job done, and Murray wouldn't have done it either. He had injured his arm a bit during fall camp, and aside from that, wasn't ready.

Kentucky. It's easy for you to say Joe lost that game because of the turnovers. True, they were key in the UK turnaround. However, it was also the arm of Joe Cox that benefited UGA so much in the first half. He tossed 3 TD passes in that half, and I'm not sure that Gray would have done that. As I've said before, Murray spent most of the season with one pain or another. I can't remember what his situation was at this point in the season, but I think it's fair to say he wasn't ready enough for the Coaches to pull a redshirt off of him just a few weeks before - what makes you think he would have been a winner?

And besides, Michael, there's never any "validity" in a "woulda been" post. I'm simply making the case that too many times, the at-home coaches think they know what's best for their team - and often, they are way wrong.

In the case of the 2009 Dawgs, if you think anyone other than Cox should have been the signal caller, you're just plain wrong.