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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We've Got Issues: Week 6

Clearing up a couple of issues...

I wrote an extensive post yesterday supporting Joe Cox's job as starter, but while it drew a healthy number of comments agreeing with my sentiment, it drew nearly as many from fans who disagree vociferously.

I think the best comment, however, was this: Cox is a problem for Georgia in the way a runny nose is a problem for a cancer patient.

No one is saying Cox has played mistake-free football. My point in the post was simply to say that he's not playing THAT much worse, statistically, than Matthew Stafford did a year ago. No one was asking for Stafford to be benched.

I've also read numerous comments that Cox cannot stretch the field. Folks, he's completed more deep balls than any other QB in the SEC. Give the credit to A.J. Green if you want, but it was a deep ball to Tavarres King that set up the go-ahead TD last week. And the defenses Cox has faced so far -- Arkansas aside -- have been pretty solid.

What has been troubling about Cox has not been his leadership. That's been great. It's not been the deep ball. He's been as good on those as anyone could have expected since the flu-related stinker against Oklahoma State. It's been the mid-range throws, and that is a sincere criticism. Cox missed a couple of 10-to-15-yard throws to King last week and another to Shaun Chapas. He needs to hit those, but those passes aren't far off and he's capable of making them. He just has to get it done.

But all of that is really not worth arguing about. The numbers are what they are, and there's a large contingent of people who don't care. They prefer the subjective argument that Cox stinks because of a dozen or so bad throws this year rather than the objective argument that his numbers are only about 5 percent worse than what Stafford provided last year. They argue that the pass protection has been good, but ignore the fact that the running game has been brutal. In fact, I've heard some critiques that it's Cox's fault that the running game has been bad because defenses aren't respecting him. (I love this one because defenses would respect Mariah Carey's arm if she had A.J. to throw to.)

So if you don't want Joe at quarterback, there's nothing I can say to change your mind. But here's the question: What is your alternative?

This is my response to every "bench this guy" or "fire that guy" comment I hear. What is your better option?

Aaron Murray was not ready three weeks ago, and since then he hasn't practiced fully a single day thanks to a triceps injury.

Logan Gray was supposed to see playing time, but he's still not getting it. Why do you think that is? Because the same coaches who subbed D.J. Shockley in for David Greene, who benched Joe Tereshinski, whose dad was on the staff, and who benched Matthew Stafford as a freshman when he couldn't get it done -- those coaches are all too overwhelmed with appreciation for Joe that they refuse to play a better quarterback? I find it hard to believe.

In fact, remember during the spring how all those coaches talked about how Logan Gray was behind the learning curve because he had been working too much on special teams and not focusing as much on quarterback? Well guess what -- HE'S STILL PLAYING ON SPECIAL TEAMS!

Even if Gray bests Cox in pure physical ability -- a notion that is as much opinion as fact at this point -- there's nothing to say he uses a stronger arm to connect on more throws. There's nothing to say he uses his advanced athleticism to actually elude the oncoming linebackers that the O line can't seem to block. And most importantly, it is fair to conclude that when he's on the field, there won't be a single person in the huddle who truly grasps the entire offense. Who is Washaun Ealey supposed to be getting pass-blocking instructions from then?

Look, I'm not against the concept here. I argued a few weeks ago that there was merit to getting playing time for next year's quarterback. But by that same token, the opportunities have been few and far between, and at this point, while a number of fans want to see heads roll, I promise you that the feeling inside the locker room is this: We were 69 seconds away from beating the No. 4 team in the country and we still will be the SEC East champs if we win out.

If Georgia loses this week, then I'll be in your corner. Logan or Aaron should play some significant downs against Vanderbilt. But give things a little more time, and let the doctors try fixing the deadly disease before worrying about the runny nose.

The other big issue is special teams, and more than a few people have asked: Why won't Georgia hire a special teams coach?

OK, this one is a valid argument, but there are bigger issues at play here.

First, hiring an outside special teams coach means firing one of the current coaches. The NCAA regulates how many coaches a team can have, so to add one, you also have to get rid of one. And firing Willie Martinez to hire a special teams coach is not an acceptable answer (although it his sorta funny).

Secondly, it really doesn't matter whether there is a special teams coach or not. What matters is a staff-wide emphasis on the importance of special teams. It's more than about Xs and Os. It's about giving whomever is handling special teams both the talent and the time to properly prepare their units.

Think back to the field-goal block by Green. John Jancek had to fight for the ability to use Green on his team because Tony Ball was worried about his receiver getting hurt. This is the case throughout the team -- and in fairness, there'd be some outcry from fans if Green HAD gotten hurt.

I don't know what the right answers are here, but I do know this: Things aren't getting fixed right now, and hiring a special teams coach is not a catch-all solution to the problems.


Anonymous said...

Bottom line, we need better special teams play. Logan Gray should not be out there making tackles on Kickoff Coverage. Put starters on the special teams that know how to tackle and do it every day!

Blog Goliard said...

Heard you on the morning show...good discussion about the punt return situation there, but I'm still puzzled as to why no one is asking about trying to *block* punts. If you're not seriously setting up returns, and the situation is good--say, for instance, LSU is backed up inside their own 5 yard line--why not? Why give the punter a gift by handing him 100% assurance that no one will bother him?

I feel like I'm the only guy out here who hasn't been told some important information that would make it obvious why trying to block a punt--ever, in any situation--has become a completely unacceptable idea.

Anonymous said...

Can't Coach Mark Richt assume total responsibility for the special teams? This approach works extremely well for Virginia Tech, plus I think Richt has the capacity to be more hands-on with the players.


the tri guy said...

If Richt would name himself Special Teams coach, he wouldn't have to fire anyone. Beemer and Meyer both coach their special teams. Mullen at MSU does too.

The talent levels between teams is shrinking and attention to special teams is becoming more and more important. Richt refuses to acknowledge this and it is sickening.

David Hale said...

You're right on Richt being in charge of STs, but that also assumes two things: 1.) Richt would be a good special teams coach, and 2.) the mentality of how the TEAM approaches special teams would still have to change. Hasn't Richt been the guy who has put his stamp of approval on directional kicking and Logan Gray on punt returns?

As for blocking punts, I think a lot of this all comes down to one simple thing: Georgia is afraid of the fake. When has someone run a fake against Georgia and NOT had it work? I think there's a lack of aggressiveness and it's a risk-reward question in which the coaches have decided it's not worth the risk.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Richt coach special teams in the early years? I thought he was involved in the Bennett years.

Anonymous said...

Also, what happened to Zach Renner and his punt blocking? Haven't seen us go after the ball much, and when we did (ASU and Bama 2008), Renner blocked punts.

Anonymous said...

Completing a pass for long yaradge is much different than stretching the field.

Stafford may have stunk with his long ball accuracy but you couldn't go to sleep on it. No one respects Joe Cox and his arm so a safety isn't required for support. Plain & simple.

Who knows if Gray is the answer. But like I said yesterday, how can you learn the answer if you don't even ask the question?

Blog Goliard said...

I see your point about the coaches' risk-reward calculation on punts...but I'm not sure I can credit that calculation entirely. Didn't the fake punt Spurrier called against us succeed precisely because none of our defenders were even pretending to go after the punter? Having people attacking the guy couldn't possibly have been a bad thing.

Anyhow, when your special-teams schemes are closed up because they're entirely based on fear, that's surely a bad sign.

Blog Goliard said...

And again, my mantra: never do anything 100% of the time in football. Never.

Predictability may be an issue in other facets of the game, but where we're really flouting this rule is on special teams, and I think it's part of the reasons special teams is going so badly.

Universal Remonster said...

First off, I like how all the Cox bashers come in and post as anonymous.

For all of you guys... and this is coming from a former QB... you have absolutely NO IDEA what you are talking about.

Cox makes mistakes, yes. Some throws he makes are just plain ugly. Well, Stafford did the same thing, and yet I don't understand why all of this teams woes fall onto the ginger. I mean, are you watching the same football team? In the game against Arkansas, Cox took a snap, looked the safety off to the right side for a split second, then fired a frozen rope to Charles down the middle for the TD. That throw is textbook, and he put even more velocity on the ball than he needed, but the point is that there is no QB in the NFL that could make that pass look prettier.

Cox has the ability to stretch the field, no question. The real knock on him should be his consistency. Against LSU, he looked like two completely different QBs when comparing the the two halves. Cox needs to settle in and just play his game instead of overthinking each throw (that's subjective, but from experience it seems that was when you can be the most errant; when you are concentrating so hard you end up psyching out yourself.)

I'm all for playing Gray... i wish we sould see him more at QB. But when it comes to the starting job, there's a reason Cox has it. And whoever said Cox wouldn't start at any other SEC school... that's redonk. There are only a handful of teams that WOULDN'T start him.

Carter said...

I am not arguing for or against Cox here, but I do have a couple of questions:

1) Doesn't Gray go w/ the first team offense during Wednesday practices?

2) How much special teams prep time does Gray devote to the art of fair-catching?

Anonymous said...

Cox is a problem for Georgia in the way a runny nose is a problem for a cancer patient.

Ouch, David. A comparison that highlights how absolutely ridiculous our obsession with football is.

Maybe shoot for a wilder situation next time, one that doesn;t hit so close to home for so many.

David Hale said...

Meant no offense by it -- I was just repeating a comment left on the blog. Only meant to highlight that Cox is a small problem surrounded by much bigger ones.

Look, I get that folks are mad about one first down in the first half, but they shouldn't be asking why Logan Gray wasn't in the game. UGA was in third-and-long throughout the half because it couldn't run the ball. Ask why Washaun wasn't in the game earlier if you want to criticize a personnel decision.

Anonymous said...


First off, best UGA blog out there. But by your logic in regards to Cox, the fact that our backup QB and three walkons are on kickoff coverage must mean that the coaches know that there are no other players who could do a better job, otherwise they would be playing...And I guess Evans is clearly better than Rambo based on the amount of playing time the coaches gave to each of them vs. LSU. I would agree to a certain extent that Cox is not the problem, but at this point don't have any confidence with this staff's personnel decisions, so therefore don't believe that he is clearly better than Grey just because of blind faith in the coaching staff...blind faith was four years ago...

Turd Ferguson said...

I'm afraid I don't understand the "because they're afraid of fake punts" line of reasoning. Somehow, Florida has developed something of a reputation for blocking punts, ... while also having one of the most dangerous return games in the country ... and I don't recall them giving up too many fakes.

So, unless they've figured out a way to sneak a few extra guys onto the field completely undetected, they must be doing something that we could (in theory) imitate. Right?

Anonymous said...

I see your point about the "dinks & dunk" passes re: Joe Cox. Before the AJ miss, on the 1st series, Cox threw 5 ft above #82 head on a simple turn in route....

Some of the throws to RB & FB have been "medicine" balls, especially in ASU game - very slow developing plays. Also Chapps catch for TD against Lsu was @ his ankles....

Disagree somewhat I think it is more about YAC, than YPC. Do you have those #'s?

Anonymous said...

You are the absolute best - hands down!