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Monday, October 5, 2009

Cox Isn't Georgia's Problem

As someone who has watched Andy Reid appear to purposefully lose at least a dozen big games in my time as an Eagles fan, I empathize with the Georgia faithful who are quite upset today. They're frustrated, and they simply want answers. I get it.

But here's the one guy being held accountable by so many fans who has no business being in your line of fire today: Joe Cox.

I'm not going to try to convince you that Cox had the best game of his career on Saturday. Clearly he didn't. He finished 18-of-34 for 229 yards and two touchdowns with a late INT to boot, but as I'm sure you all will point out, those aren't the problematic numbers. No, it was his first half that was the problem. Through two quarters, Cox had completed just 3-of-9 passes for 31 yards -- and 27 of them came on one throw.

But look at what Cox is working with. First, LSU's secondary is one of the best units in the country. There's a reason why dozens of stories were written about Chad Jones and Patrick Peterson matchup against A.J. Green this week. Second, Mike Bobo's play calling was curious at best throughout the first half. Third, the running game offered Cox absolutely nothing in the way of support. Fourth, as good as some of his young receivers have been, Cox is playing with Green, Moore and a cast of guys who still have to ask him what to do before nearly every play. And Moore has been milk-carton material for the past two games.

Let's look at two sets of numbers, OK.

Player A: 61.4% completion percentage, 153.54 QB rating, 2.5:1 TD-to-INT ratio
Player B: 58.6% completion percentage, 145.42 QB rating, 1.83:1 TD-to-INT ratio

Player A is obviously better, but the margin is pretty small. The variance is nothing that couldn't swing in the other direction with one particularly good game by Player B or one bad one by Player A.

I'm sure by now you've figured out that Player A is Matthew Stafford a year ago, and Player B is Cox through five games this season. So, yes, we can officially say Cox was a step back from Stafford -- but by how much? My guess is it's a lot less than most fans worried it might be back in January when Stafford announced he was leaving.

And keep in mind, Stafford posted those numbers in his third year as a starter with Knowshon Moreno in his backfield and two star wide receivers to throw to. In his first two seasons, Stafford didn't come anywhere close to Cox's numbers.

Ah, but that first half, you say. One first down? No points? That's inexcusable, right?

Let's look back to last season when the future No. 1 pick in the NFL draft was Georgia's quarterback.

vs. South Carolina: Six points in the first half
vs. Alabama: Zero points in the first half
vs. Florida: Three points in the first half
vs. Auburn: Seven points in the first half
vs. Michigan State: Three points in the first half

Georgia was losing all but one of those games at the half, too.

Again, that was with Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi and A.J. Green on offense and the No. 1 QB in the draft throwing the passes.

OK, but you don't think Cox can stretch the field, right? Actually, he's among the best quarterbacks in the country at completing the deep ball. He hit five more passes for 20 yards or longer against LSU.

Oh, but he threw behind a couple of receivers and overthrew Green on a deep ball, right? Do you remember what it was like playing with Stafford last year? The kid had a cannon arm, but he didn't always know where it was going.

And here's another stat I came across (and damned if I can remember where I stole it from): Arizona State is ranked No. 8 in the country in QB rating allowed. LSU is No. 10. South Carolina is No. 12 in the nation in pass defense.

Cox hasn't played cake opponents (Arkansas notwithstanding).

But here are the two biggest reasons Georgia cannot make a change at QB.

No. 1: Logan Gray simply isn't ready to take over the job, and the games have been too close to trust him with even a series or two per half. Look, I said I thought Gray or Murray needed to see action this season a few weeks ago, so I'm on board with making sure the Dawgs have someone with experience in 2010. But at this point, if Georgia wins out, they'll still be the SEC East champions, and until that's not the case, Mark Richt & Co. are not going to risk giving away a game with their second- or third-best QB running the show. Not going to happen.

No. 2: While you'll point to the handful of bad throws that Cox made, his real value is in all the things you'll never see. Do you realize how many kids are in the offensive huddle this season? It's Joe, Moore and a bunch of freshmen and sophomores.

And yet, Georgia has been behind for four straight weeks and Cox has rallied his troops and regained the lead every time. That's character. That's leadership. That's accountability. On a team like this, those are as important as any amount of arm strength.

In fact, here's what Joe said about finding out in the middle of the third quarter that true freshman Washaun Ealey was taking over at tailback: "I was about to go in the game and they said '24' is in. I had no clue they were thinking about doing that. I was excited for him. It was during a TV timeout, and we were sitting there in the huddle and everyone was telling him what to do -- 'Oh, make sure you hold on to the ball,' blah, blah, blah. I was just like, man, let him run. He knows how to run."

The senior leader on offense was told just a few seconds before taking the field midway through the third quarter that he would have yet another true freshman to look out for, and the first thing he does is take all the pressure off Ealey and tell him to just go play his game. I talked to Ealey on Sunday, too, and he said that Cox's leadership was absolutely crucial for him.

All due respect to Gray and Murray, but they aren't handling that situation the way Cox did.

And one last point: If the refs hadn't been insane, the kickoff team knew how to cover, and the defense had made a stop, what would you be saying about Joe Cox today? Because none of those things that happened after Georgia's go-ahead touchdown were his fault, so your synopsis of his performance shouldn't be swayed by the things that happened when he wasn't even on the field.

Folks, Cox is not the problem.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jeez, more damning evidence of our coaches' inability to communicate properly to anyone:

"I was about to go in the game and they said '24' is in. I had no clue they were thinking about doing that."

You would think that the coaches might mention to Cox that they would be throwing a freshman RB out there at some point. Maybe in pre-game warmups or something.

Verne and Danielson mentioned it in the pre-game telecast, so the coaches had obviously been planning it.

We appear to be, from the outside, a very disjointed coaching staff. It is no wonder that our play on the field often reflects a lack of preparation and discipline.

trumely said...

Dave, Let me start by telling you that I have enjoyed reading all of your articles, and they always make me think about things a little differently. I am sick and tired of the "fire CWM, CMB, and all the other coordinators" talk. Has UGA underachieved? I don't know. I do know that there are a ton of talented freshmen and sophmores that are playing, and playing well. We lost for several reasons, but one thing you can coach is passion. Our dawgs didn't give up and haven't given up the entire season. THAT'S coaching. Fans are supposed to support their team, not rip it to shreds. We've lost a couple of tough games, but I'll support the dawgs even if they lose out.

Anonymous said...

David, you're too close the problem to truly see the problem. His balls float. His balls get knocked down. His balls even aren't that accurate.

Joe Cox is UGA. His work ethic is to be applauded. But just because you work hard and you love UGA doesn't mean you deserve to be the starting QB at UGA.

In my mind, I don't trust these coaches eye for talent. These are the same guys that kept Moreno on the sidelines for almost two full years. In fact, it took an injury to Thomas Brown to get Moreno more totes.

Logan Gray may not be the answer. But it's hard to know the answer if you don't even ask the question. Give Gray the ball and let's see what happens.

Ally said...

Thank you for putting all these numbers together & educating some ill-informed Dawg fans David! We got a lot of problmes to worry a/b but this meme against Joe Cox needs to end. As you said: Joe Cox is not the problem.

Many thanks for the immense effort at reporting the truth in a non-biased way and for shedding light on the REAL problems we're facing this season.

Trey said...

I agree completely. Even at the game I got into a few arguments when people were yelling at Cox. I said a few things like " do you not remember the Bama game when we had the superstars?" and "go compare his numbers to Stafford's, he's not the problem." He gave us the lead... HE GAVE US THE LEAD. How as it his fault our D couldn't tackle a running play that was called to run the clock out? Our problems are so much more than Cox, and I wouldn't even consider him part of the problem. Our coaching has just been TERRIBLE this year. maybe we need a 5 loss year for Damon to put pressure on CMR to make some moves, or to make his staff step it up.

Trey said...

And how about this... The starting QB said he had no clue Ealey was going to see playing time. Yet, CMR says in post game interviews it was planned out that they were going to use him... so who is full of it? CMR just covering for the terrible play of our offense, and trying to save it by putting in the kid to try to spark something? Of course not, it was all part of the plan, just the part they never told the starting QB about.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your general point here and I think Cox has held up much better than I expected so far. However, you suggest that Stafford had everything in his favor last year because he had Moreno, Mo Mass, and AJ. However, that isn't exactly true. While the run blocking has been awful this year, the pass blocking has been pretty exceptional, something that was never the case during Stafford's career here. Imagine what he might've done last year if he had the amount of time that Cox is getting in the pocket.

Bourbon Dawgwalker said...

"Joe Cox doesn't have the arm to be QB at UGA"

Did you people watch UGA during the David Greene years? I love me some David Greene, but their is no difference in zip between a ball thrown by DG and a ball thrown by JC. The difference is that DG had a defense that held up when his O wasn't hitting on all cylinders.

PNWDawg said...

AMEN! I looked at the same numbers comparison after the Arkansas game and came to the same conclusion. Cox has way more drive to win than Stafford ever did. I just wish he would have another year or two to develope because I think he would go down as being a David Green caliber of a quarterback.

pooldawg04 said...

David, excellent job giving the Dawg Nation proof of JC's value to this team. Where would we be without him? Probably 0-5. I thought after OSU we were doomed to that fate but he has been a tremendous asset to a very young team. This team will win some games they shouldn't during the next seven games. I'm looking forward to watching these naysayers eat crow.

Anonymous said...

Spot on. Yes, he misses some throws, but name a SEC qb who doesn't. This kid is a winner. We have lots of problems, but JC is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

David Greene had a decent enough arm to play in the NFL - so his arm is much stronger than Joe Cox. Enough said.

Joe Cox can't extend the field - period. He's a great Dawg and I wish things were different for him. But loving UGA shouldn't be the reason to play football.

Logan Gray gives us speed. He gives us a stronger arm. He gives us some much needed energy. And yes, he may in fact give us more losses. Only time can tell.

Joe Cox will lose to many more teams because his arm sucks. Teams will continue to play cover 2 because Cox can't put the ball in the cover 2 hole. As a result, the deep ball is nonexistent because their coverage simply won't allow it. Same goes for our running game. The Falcons line couldn't block 8 people every play.

Teams know that we can't stretch the field. They stack the box and we do one of two things:

1. We try to force the run game to work
2. Or, we try to pass the ball with a dead arm

Neither works. As proven by our five games this season.

Just because you blame the QB doesn't mean you hate Joe Cox. I don't hate Joe Cox. But I know that he can't play at this level. His arm is just too weak.

P.S. Remember that Knowshown Moreno was sitting on the sidelines for year and half before Richt & Company gave him the ball.

P.P.S. Even Roger Clemens was replaced by another pitcher from time to time. We should have played Logan Gray Saturday when it was obvious that we needed a change.

Anonymous said...

Cox is a big problem. Let's see, no velocity, mediocre accuracy, doesn't see open receivers, floats passes over the middle, stares down receivers. If it wasn't for AJ Green catching jump balls, Cox would be neck and neck with Crompton and Cox gets much better pass protection than Crompton does. Joe's not the only problem, but he is definitely a problem and our running game WILL NOT GET BETTER until he's gone.

PNWDawg said...

Anon 1:18, if Joe's arm is so weak then how is it possible he over threw his pass to Green after Boykin's interception? That's obviously not something to brag about but it goes against your logic. And as I recollect David Green never played a snap in the NFL outside of a preseason game and was cut by more than 1 team. He had the benefit of playing 4 years and was drafted based on his winning pct. Had Cox been given that much time I'd be willing to bet he would have been given the same treatment.

PNWDawg said...

All this crap about Joe's lack of arm strength is making my skull hurt. Great, let's get another person with a cannon arm who overthrows our receivers (see Stafford). Did any of you actually read the article or did you go straight to the comments? Yeah, Cox has A.J. So what? Montana had Rice, Bradshaw had Swann, Brady has Moss, etc. If you want something to whine about so desperately then whine about the gaping, oozing, infected hole called special teams. Fix that and I be ya’ll are suddenly wearing Joe Cox jersey’s to your best friend’s wedding.

Hayden Thomas said...

that's right, cox isn't the problem. I think our coaches are, we are just a poorly coached team and theyre need to be changes at the end of the season.

Carter said...

My main beef w/ Cox is that he doesn't play as smart and careful as I think he is capable of. He has thrown at least 10 balls this season that could easily have been pick-sixes.

The play calling is an issue, but the playbook itself is even more of a problem. It has changed remarkably little over Richt's tenure. It is too predictable and simplistic scheme-wise, and we continue to call certain plays year after year that rarely ever work.

The coaching staff as a whole is some combination of stupid, stubborn, or lazy.

Doug said...

Logan Gray gives us speed. He gives us a stronger arm. He gives us some much needed energy.

Those are three very shaky, dare I say completely unproven, assumptions upon which you're calling for a QB change.

Anonymous said...

Anoymous 1:18- I'm sorry dude but you are clueless! Joe Cox is not this teams problem. Joe has a strong arm- just as strong as Green's. He can make all the throws. Did you see the stats thru 5 games? He is neck and neck with Stafford and a MUCH better leader. Cox's problem is that he has an inconstant defense and special teams to deal with. The kid has no backup

Anonymous said...

If winning was all it took to play in the NFL - then Chase Daniel would be on a team somewhere. Joe Cox has the weakest arm in the SEC. He scares no one and he IS the problem. I'm sorry if that hurts your feelings but UGA fans are the only ones that thinks Joe Cox can play in this league.

He's a feel good story and I honestly hate it that he doesn't have the talent to be our QB. But he doesn't. And he will never be able to beat a good defense because of his arm strength. Plain and simple.

There's plenty of blame to go around - but it all starts with an nonexistent passing attack. You'll see it again this weekend. UT will play the same game as everyone elase has played.

Forcing Cox to throw the ball is a great game plan. Those floaters across the middle should be music to Eric Berry's ears.

Anonymous said...

Blind love sometimes means you kiss the wrong lips.

Cox couldn't start at Tennessee.

Anonymous said...

david, i respect your opinion, but you are not all correct on this thing. cox makes lots of errant throws. and don't start comparing him to stafford. you can't compared a great high school qb with the #1 pick in the draft. cox does some good things, but he is not a game changer for our team. he may change the game for the other team but not uga. he cannot win games on his own talent.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I love your blog and agree with you about 98% of the time, but not about Joe Cox. I know he has great enthusiasm and passion for Georgia football, unlike Stafford, in my honest opinion. I wish that was enough to make a great quarterback, it doesn't. I think Joe Cox is the white elephant in the room. To say he's as good as Stafford or Greene because of some numbers? No, I just don't buy it. There's no way to know if anyone could do better because the coaches won't even try anyone else. They see things in practice that we don't see, even so, I just don't get it. I don't mean to bag on the coaches or my beloved Dawgs, but this season is a "hot mess" if I've ever seen one. My guess 6-6, if we're lucky.

ClintThomason said...

Great story. I think the problem is that Bobo hasn't styled the offense around Joe's strenghts. He is still using the gameplan for Stafford. Sure Cox has completed a lot of 20+ yard passes, but the majority of them were underthrown and required a great catch by the WRs. Where are all the medium passes that Cox is more suited to throw? It seems since he doesn't have the strongest arm that throwing the ball 10-15 yards would be perfect for him. Every other team we play kills us on those passes, why are we not doing the same thing?

Anonymous said...

Todd Blackledge said it best during the Auburn / Tennessee game. He said that very often the most popular player on a team was the 2nd string quarterback who is not playing.

He quoted some Tennessee coach as saying that if Stephens were playing instead of Crompton the fans would be begging for Crompton to come back out on the field.

I think the same can be said of Gray. He is not as good as Cox. The coaches know it.

It is really as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

JOE COX COULDNT START FOR SOUTHWEST GEORGIA ACADEMY!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dave. I think you're dead wrong on this one. Without AJ playing out of his mind right now, Cox's abilities (or lack thereof) are front and center on our problem list. It's time for the Ginger to take a seat a la Joe T3. He's really bad, seriously. There's no way Logan could do worse.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to put Gray in for a series or two and let him get some much needed experience like we did with shockley. Gray may not be the answer but a least we he will be getting some pt. It's not going to matter much anyway this week cause monte kiffin is going to stack the box and eat our lunch.. You can right that down.When we are 3-3 we will have no choice but to play Gray.. BTW,
whoever wrote Cox could'nt play for SGA is wrong, He meant Miller county!!!!

PNWDawg said...

Anon 2:30, do your homework. Chase Daniel is a New Orleans Saint. Oh why do I even bother? It just aggravates me to no end when people base their arguments on false statements.

Anonymous said...

David, I have to disagree with this one. Cox threw, I think, three passes where the WR could actually run after he caught the ball. The rest, that were catchable, were thrown BEHIND or way over the receiver. The only reason his numbers are even close to Stafford's was because of his receivers. For example, the catch by Green in the endzone. The ball was thrown way short and A. J. had to go over the head of the defender to take it away from him.

Anonymous said...

I guess what bothers me is when I read that Georgia doesn't have another QB ready to start. Every play is one from introducing Gray or Murray as a starter. If Cox tweaks an ankle are the Dawgs gonna say that we don't have a QB and forfeit? No! They will play Gray! Why not let him play a little and push the team? The running game was non existent before Ealey took 8 carries for about 35yds or so. Was he not ready either? I love UGA but stop talking about how Georgia controls it's path to the SEC championship. I would be happy if we lose 4 or less as of now. Every week AJ makes Cox look better and stats are for losers as Richt said in the postgame Sat. If AJ wasn't there to make a stud catch Cox wouldn't look as good. I do think his 5th yr senior leadership is big for all of the young guys but there is a reason he hasn't played in 4 yrs as was with Joe T. They are average QBs who are taking UGA nowhere. I really wish good for Cox and hope the best for him but it's time to mix it up a bit.