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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Picking Sides in the QB Battle

Normally I'd say we've been through enough discussion of the quarterback derby already, but we've got three months to kill, so why not dive in a bit deeper, eh?

First off, I posted the combined spring scrimmage stats the other day, which seems to be the best evidence for Zach Mettenberger's claim to the top of the depth chart.

But two things to keep in mind about that...

First off, here are the stats if you take out the G-Day numbers:

Murray: 23-of-32 (72%) for 284 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Mettenberger: 17-of-26 (66%) for 283 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Slight edge for Murray in completion percentage, but he threw one additional INT.

So the bottom line in Mettenberger's significantly better overall numbers comes down to a significantly better G-Day performance. And G-Day was perhaps the least game-like of the three scrimmages.

Of course, perhaps the stats don't really mean much of anything at all. To wit, here are the numbers from last spring:

Quarterback A: 19-of-30 (63%) for 207 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT
Quarterback B: 24-of-47 (51%) for 249 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT
Quarterback C: 13-of-21 (62%) for 325 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs

Which of the three would you have said should be the leader on the depth chart at the end of last spring?

Would it change your opinion any if I added the fact that Quarterback C had the longest completion of the day in each of the three scrimmages?

Well, as it turns out, QB A was Logan Gray, QB B was Joe Cox and QB C was Aaron Murray.

Was Murray anywhere near ready to be the starter when he posted those numbers? Not even close.

Was Gray in position to unseat Cox as the starter because of his better numbers in the spring? I think most of us agree now that he wasn't.

And was Cox a disaster because his spring numbers didn't look all that hot? He wasn't great in the fall, but he did lead all SEC QBs in TDs during conference play. His problem wasn't so much the low yardage or completion totals, but the high number of INTs -- an issue which didn't manifest itself in the spring at all.

It's understandable for fans to over-analyze the little bit of information we get from the spring, but the coaches have a much, much broader spectrum of evidence to review before making a decision. So be careful not to put too many eggs in one basket this time of year. Spring stats are like the tip of an iceberg -- it's just a small but visible percentage of a much larger picture.

Anyway, lots of responses on both sides to my recent posts on how seriously we should take what happened on G-Day. Here's a bit of what was said...

Anonymous writes: David why is it that everytime i read something about the QBs you are always baised for AM? man crush maybe? anyways a covered WR is a covered WR and ZM made some really good throws, so who are bring down here? Mett not good because of who he played or are you saying our 2nd teamers aren't any good?

David: Let's look at this conversation objectively for a second -- I'm a Syracuse fan from Delaware who is paid to write news about Georgia. I have no ties to UGA, no vested interest in UGA's performance (other than that I'd like to go somewhere fun for the bowl game) and I get paid the same no matter how much I write or who I write about.

Anonymous, on the other hand, is a Georgia fan who assumes because I wrote something he doesn't agree with that I must be the one who is bias and purposely trying to tear down some member of his favorite team.

So… which one of us do you think is writing objectively?

Look, Mettenberger had a good day. He's made huge strides. I've written both of those things numerous times. But G-Day is not everything.

Again... I'm not picking a side with any QB. I'm reporting to you the most objective information I can because I want you to be informed. If you don't want to read information that may clash with your opinions, I can't help you.

The best information I have says Murray was the favorite entering the spring. Aside from G-Day, Murray performed well this spring. G-Day, as we've discussed, is an inaccurate representation of overall performance. So that formula leads me to believe that Murray is still the favorite -- though probably by a smaller margin than he was before. I'm not rooting for him -- I'm just telling you what I think best sums up the situation.

If and when the time comes that the information I have changes, you'll hear about that, too.

Anonymous writes: Last year Logan went out and had a good spring game, many debated if he should start over Cox. I was a Cox fan and thought Logan maybe deserved it.

Murray has been subject to much hype since grabbing him out of Plant HS and many seem to want to justify him as that hyped player when none of these kids have proven anything at game speed including Logan.

IMO Mett fits Bobo's play calling the better than any QB he has had since becoming OC. If CMR was OC I could see Logan or Murray being better.

David: I'm not trying to pick on this commenter, because his views are probably indicative of many readers' take on things, but a couple things confuse me.

First off, why the hate regarding Murray's "hype"? You guys do realize he plays for Georgia, right? Shouldn't you be excited that one of your own is getting hype? Aaron Murray was a spectacular high school quarterback. His coaches at Georgia have raved about his preparation and willingness to accept coaching. Other scouts and QBs have raved about his potential athletically. AND HE PLAYS FOR GEORGIA. What's not to like? He's not someone who just fell out of the sky and started being hyped for no reason. He's earned it, and he continues to work hard.

Now, does that mean you have to write off Mettenberger or Logan Gray? Absolutely not. Again, Mett has made huge strides. But I don't get why this has become anything remotely close to an emotional debate for Georgia fans. You have (at least) two good quarterbacks who have four years of playing time in front of them. That's a good thing, right?

And as for who fits the system better, I think that's a moot point. Bobo wasn't OC for D.J. Shockley, but he was the QB coach. And moreover, Richt has been heavily involved in the QB meetings and offensive meetings this spring, so who's to say that he's not working closely with Bobo to develop ways to employ a more mobile QB?

Dog44 writes: Someone other than Mett is going to start the season at QB for the Bulldogs. That's a fact. If that QB does really well, there will be no reason to make a change and he'll likely be the QB for the foreseeable future. So that leaves two QBs as potential season-starters: Murray and Gray. It may not be a coincidence that those were the two guys who split reps with the ones on Saturday. So in essence, Mett is playing for the back-up role to begin the season. If the starter struggles, Mett will get his shot. So any debate right now over whether he should start over one of those other two guys is a bit pointless. He's not going to start the first game regardless, and might not ever start unless the other guy can't get the job done.

Based on everything we've heard about Murray and on Mett's suspension, the job is still Murray's to lose. If he struggles, I'm glad we'll have a very talented back-up in place.

David: Depending on who you're talking to, the suspension Mettenberger faces is either being over-analyzed or under-analyzed.

Dog44 is right in that the suspension can't be ignored. Richt specifically said that whoever starts the first game is going to have a leg up the rest of the way. Well guess what -- Mett isn't starting the first game, and that isn't going to change no matter how well Mett performs.

That said, in 2006 Joe Tereshinski started the first game and played well against a lower-tier opponent. Then a week later, Georgia went to Columbia, Tereshinski got hurt early, and Matthew Stafford came in for his first serious action as a college player and helped lead Georgia to a win. So it can happen, and Mettenberger actually has more experience than Stafford, who was a true freshman at the time.

The bottom line is that the suspension is a big plus in Murray's favor, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee anything. I said two days after Mett's arrest that this wouldn't disqualify him from the competition, but that he would now need to do more than simply show he was a little ahead of Murray to win the job. He's going to have to prove unequivocally that he's the better quarterback -- and while that's still a possibility, that hasn't happened yet.

Anonymous writes: What's interesting to me is that a lot of people have resolved in their mind that Aaron Murray is the QB based on what he did in High School and last year in according to practice reports. I believe I was one of those people until I went to the G-Day game.

The fact is that Mett has made great strides and has performed equally well if not better in all of the scrimmages from a stat standpoint. This includes whether he went against 1st team or 2nd team defenses. Granted there is more to it than stats. However, it does give us some indication.

People tend to pick a horse and want to see that horse win..but these kids are all representatives of a team. A team that we want to see win.

I'm cool with Murray or Mett and know that they are loaded with talent. If our line is dominant and we can run the ball both of them could do some damage.

But I am no longer going to discount Mett because of where he started last year. He looked cool and calm from the time he stepped on the field for warm ups. And I don't care if he was throwing against a high school defense..he looked good.

If Murray is the starter that will be fine too. The great thing is that we have 2 highly talented kids at QB. No longer is there going to be a huge gap if someone gets hurt. Remember when Shockley's backup was Joe T :(

We've got 2 guys that can play. I trust Richt will handle the situation and I look forward to watching the Dawgs kick tail in the Fall.

David: I don't think anyone should discount Mettenberger's accomplishments. The best news to come from this spring was probably how much Mett has progressed since last fall.

But let's look at the logic here: "What's interesting to me is that a lot of people have resolved in their mind that Aaron Murray is the QB based on what he did in High School and last year in according to practice reports. I believe I was one of those people until I went to the G-Day game."

So what you're saying is that it's silly to buy into all the evidence in support of Murray if you saw one watered-down practice on G-Day? That seems like the opposite of the logic you should be taking.

If Murray was a star in high school, one of the most highly recruited QBs in the country, had exceptional scrimmage performances last year, earned praise from coaches for how he prepared as a redshirt, and then played well this spring right up until G-Day, wouldn't logic dictate that G-Day was the exception, not the other way around?

And as I noted at the beginning, Mettenberger wasn't far superior in each scrimmage. Just the last one.

Of course, the last point is the best one: There are two good quarterbacks here, and that's good news for Georgia fans.

Anonymous writes: Mett had the best touch on the ball.

Murray overthrew targets and tossed a Stafford style brain fade pass to the defender. I should have known right then he was Bobo's boy for the job. I have heard enough about picking up nuances and quick releases, it does nothing if the ball isn't catchable.

Tebow had terrible mechanics if you listen to the NFL scouts but won a BCS title as a starter and played in a defacto playoff for a 2nd.

David: I honestly want to know what joy people like this get from being fans? You hate Bobo, you're willing to throw one of your QBs under the bus after one ugly throw, and you've made up your mind about a player and a coach already. You're still upset with Stafford for -- OK, I'm not sure exactly what. And you don't think the nuances like release, footwork and reading progressions are important keys to the puzzle because your QB isn't completing every deep ball he throws.

I'm a Philly fan and even I'm not that masochistic.

The interception Murray threw was probably the ugliest pass by any QB all spring. I haven't seen the previous two scrimmages, but I feel comfortable in saying it'd be hard to throw one any uglier. But it was one throw out of literally thousands that the QBs made this spring, and if you think Richt or Bobo or any other coach should let that be the overriding factor in selecting a QB, then you're going to be sorely disappointed.

Richt-Flair writes: One throw? Really?

Greene probably made that throw in his first or second G-Day game. I seem to remember him having a forgettable game against Clemson in 2002 as well. I know Shockley and Stafford have made those throws. Cox ... well, yea.

None of the Qbs are ready. that's what fall camp is for. It's a coachable moment and I'm sure it's already been pointed out, and probably corrected. Who knows if the scrimmage rules didn't play a hand -- it looked like they were going to stop the play, and I'm sure it crossed Murray's mind.

I came away impressed the with progress of the QBs, and that's about all I'm taking away from it.

David: Exactly my point. The G-Day scrimmage is a contrived event that doesn't give anything close to an accurate picture of the progress anyone has made this spring. Mettenberger looked good, and he deserves credit. And Georgia fans should be excited by this spring, but understand that all three QBs still have a ways to go.

Wooly Butts writes: Just wondering why people must choose sides in the QB competition. I want the best guy to win the job and win games for UGA. I'm happy to see that all 3 contenders have competed well this spring and that we'll have someone under center next year who's beaten out impressive competitors. It's all about the Dawgs, and I'm feeling better about the QB position heading into summer and fall, based on strong showings in the spring.

David: Well said. So let's all relax, see what the depth chart tells us when it's finally released, and then continue to see how the QBs progress over the summer. The competition didn't end Saturday, so let's just sit back and enjoy watching two talented young quarterbacks develop their games. I'll continue to report to you the best, objective information I can get, and you can choose to believe that information or not.


Rob said...

Yeah right, David! Nice try! Everyone knows you want Murray to win the job so you can be proven right! That's why this entire article bashed Mettenberger! He was better and he's going to be our savior! It has to be so because I made a bet with my buddy Russell when they both came to campus about who was going to win a MNC in Athens and we flipped a coin and he got Murray and I got Mettenberger! So there! Mettenberger is better, Murray's just overhyped! Reason and perspective and patience be damned!

MaconDawg said...

I'm a Philly fan and even I'm not that masochistic.

Does this mean you're no longer a Cubs fan?

David Hale said...

Do I have to admit to being a Cubs fan this year?

I figure I'm a Philly fan by region rather than allegiance. If you grow up surrounded by those folks, you take the same approach to fandom regardless of who you root for. Luckily, the masochism fits well with rooting for the Cubs, too.

Small Group said...

David..good post . Reponsive and objective.

Anonymous said...

Here's what's imperative in the coaches deciding b/w Mettenberger and Murray, they have to make the right pick by game 2 South Carolina. They MUST know who is the right guy because we can't afford to lose any games cuz we're playing the wrong guy! It took the coaches half the season last year to realize that Samuel sucked at running back and that Ealey was really good! The SEC is way too tough to waste even 1 game experimenting. We wasted last year, we cannot waste anymore game time this year. It's not gonna be an easy decision process, but if they start Gray in game 1 I will lose my mind.

Will Q said...


Russ for UGA VIII in '010 said...

Why does this post have labels of Aaron Murray & Zach Mettenberger, but not Logan Gray? Is it because he's technically a punt returner?

Bulldawg said...

Size David, size.

IMO, I'd say that has a lot to do with those of us hoping Mett ends up being the better QB. Notice I didn't say ends up being chosen as starter. I want him to win the job because - fair and square - and am pulling for him due to his size - Mallet size.

AppleDawg said...

It is a bit sad that some get so angry about this.

I do think though that we will expect too much from whoever is QB. it is eas to say that we wont mind INT's or struggles but when they ACTUALLY struggle, we will see if our fans actually will give them a break

Remember, people wanted Stafford benched his 1st year on several occasions.

Dawgaholic said...

Richt's quotes regarding the 2001 season as well as his actions in 2002 and 2006 lead me to believe that at least 2 QBs will see significant action in September if the race remains as tight as it is now.

It's hard to know for sure until they're facing live bullets in a game that the team could conceivably lose.

Richt also played 2 QBs often at FSU.

If a two QB system means we will "struggle" like we did from 2002-2004, then I'm OK with it.

Sparrow said...

There is one question that keeps popping in my head during this whole qb debate. Where is this unwavering confidence in our o-line coming from? I don't want to hear about returning everyone but Vince Vance or getting guys back from injury. The projected personnel, barring injuries, certainly speaks to our potential, but I've seen a number of commentors describe our line as "dominant". We finished stronger on the o-line then we started, but I'm really not ready to call us dominant. I think we were going to be dominant last year too...

David Hale said...

Agreed, Sparrow. I think right now it's a very good O line, but "dominant" is a step they have yet to take. But the potential is there. Boling, Glenn and Jones are all three very, very good.

AthensHomerDawg said...

Bobo could qb if he had another year of eligibility. I don't care. I would like to see some offense this year when the Vols roll into town. I would like for the Gators to learn a little humility. Go Dawgs!