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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.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you're leaving out the AJ Green effect on Joe Cox's numbers. AJ is a better more confident reciever than he was last year and can take over games. That has inflated Joe's number to be comparable to Matthew. He can't throw a slant route or an out route to save his life. Love the Blow man

Anonymous said...

Haha. Excuse me. Love the BLOG!!

Jon said...

Good overall view. But here is my view of the "slide" in Athens: The little foxes spoil the vines. It appears to me that it is A LOT of little things that are hurting the dawgs right now. Attention to details seem to be missing in Athens right now. What say you?

Jarred said...

The only thing I haven't seen mentioned is how 'out of whack' we were on defense in crucial situations. LSU obviously watched the OSU game and saw that if you run a hurry up offense there is a good chance we'll be out of position. They routinely did this and the results were as expected.

On the Jefferson run for 26 yards, they did a hurry up, and we were so lost that Curran had to run wide to cover LaFell. Obviously LaFell is faster so Curran has his back to the play the entire time.

This was repeated so many times (I can think of two when Gamble had to split wide to cover LaFell) and we got lucky they didn't notice. Teams are going to recognize this so we have to get better at this. Am I the only one who has noticed this?

Anonymous said...

Agree about Joe remaining the starter, with more us of Logan Gray for experience/evaluation purposes. But if we lost at TN this week, I am off that bus. I see no reason to lose with a 1 year Senior starter when you could be improving your chances for a better 2010.

We don't need a new coach for Special Teams, we have one that has time, a compelling need to see improvement, and the stripes to give this a higher priority at practice and ues any player he needs from the roster: Mark Richt. I cannot see how he is overlooking this need, it is blatently obvious to all.

Treedawg said...

David,

How close are Coach Richt and Brad Johnson? I know they are brother in laws. Is he ever at practice or have you ever seen him in Athens? Would this be an option of replacing someone if Damon tells Coach you have got to make some changes?

A way to get rid of a coach on defense is simple. Go to a 3-4 look and get rid of DE coach or just move Fabs to Specail Teams Cord.(J/K) Or go hire Special Teams coach. I personally would love to see Coach Richt take the Bull by the horns and be the special teams coach!

David Hale said...

They're very close, but I don't recall seeing him in Athens. Of course, before this year, Brad was pretty busy during football season.

But here's the thing: I don't think what this staff needs is another Mark Richt follower. What it needs is some dissenting voices, people who are willing to question the way things are currently being done -- not to say it's all wrong, but just to challenge the current mind-set to see where things can be improved.

Right now, it appears that there are a lot of people plugging holes in the dam when what they really need to think about is finding a new way of redirecting the river.

Bub said...

I would love at least see for myself that Gray is not the answer at QB, by seeing what he can do IN A GAME! There's a long list of players who play much better when the lights come on than they do in practice. Didn't Coach Dooley say that ol' #34 looked like a big stiff fullback before he saw what he could do in an actual game. For all the talk about there not having been a good time to put Gray into a game because they've all been so close, I say BS. We used to put DJ into close games for Greene all the time, and Greene had already been a full-time starter and winner in the SEC by that time. Cox has proven very little to me, so I would love to see Gray get the chance to try to prove himself. If he isn't up to par, so be it, but it can't be much worse than what we've seen so far. One first down in the first half Saturday? Yeah, I can see why we wouldn't want to try something new at that point, it was all going so well!

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your comments about the QB situation, I find this interesting - we have "NFL Talent" at D-Tackle, yet I saw Brandon Wheeling on the field for several series in the first and second half on Saturday. Can someone please tell me why a senior, former walk-on, West Georgia transfer deserves playing time in that game?

We succeeded on defense in spite of ourselves. That's all you can say about a team that continues to start Evans, give Prince Miller significant reps, and never lines up more than 2 heartbeats before the ball is snapped.

Bub said...

David, just for the record, Brad Johnson LIVES in Athens now. Saw him playing golf at the Athens Country Club this summer, actually. Almost the entire Richt extended family is in Athens now, or at least it seems that way. But I agree with you, we don't need another Richt disciple on the staff, we actually could stand to cut a few of them in my opinion, get some fresh blood & fresh ideas flowing.

Anonymous said...

If I see another shot of Willy with both hands in his mouth doing his stupid train whistle 2 seconds before a play, I'm going to break a TV. He is a cyclone of activity, and all we get is a confused defense with the wrong personel on the bench.

That kid made the right choice going to Penn State.

Anonymous said...

Amen Bub! I don't think Logan has thrown 1 freaking pass this year. They keep putting him in for these zone-read situations which have been blown up from the get go. We've seen what Cox can (and more importantly can't) do. At this poin tI'll take the unknown of Gray over a limited/ underacheiving Cox.

bnwdog14 said...

It is time for the DAWGS to MAN UP and go on a 7 game win streak. We have had enough deficiencies in all aspects of the game to know what issues need to be addressed, the key now is fixing them! All is not lost, YET?

Ant123 said...

David, As much as I like and respect Mark Richt the problem starts with him. When he first got here the most refreshing changes were 1. We were very disciplined and, 2. We did not beat ourselves. We now aren't very good at either of those points. He is going to have to force the changes in whatever form is necessary.

HiAltDawg said...

Good info, I didn't realize the ncaa mandate for coaching #'s. It probably saves fans from themselves. I like Anon 9:33's idea.

Prince Lightfoot said...

Great comment, Jarred. I thought I saw the same thing with the hurry-up, but wasn't sure.

I'm not sure the argument "we need to stop doing dumb stuff on Special Teams" is the same as "we need to hire a special teams coach." Say what you will about the Logan Gray capitulation formula, he hasn't fumbled a punt. That strategy is so back-to-basics it's almost Hippocratic, and, so far, it's stemmed some of the turnover tide. What I don't get, then, is why the same staff is calling for the cutesy kickoff formations.

Randall said...

OK, so we don't have a QB better than Joe. Fine. The defense has played surprisingly well and kept us in every game we play. Fine. The offensive line has been OK. Fine. The running game has been lack luster, but you say not our only problem. Fine. Sp. Teams needs work, but as you say agian not our only problem. Fine. What I am getting at is you seem to be dancing around what you really want to say. What is the real problem with Ga. football this season? Please enlighten us.

Stu said...

David,
I couldn't agree with you more when you say that Georgia's coaching staff doesn't need "another Mark Richt follower."

Richt has always hired young assistant coaches, ones who have less experience than he has. What he needs to do is hire established offensive and defensive coordinators, ones who have been successful elsewhere and who will bring in new ideas and new attitudes.

It might do Richt good to work with coaches who are older than he is and who aren't a little, well, eccentric like Fabris, or of questionable ability like Eason.

Why not imitate LSU and hire someone like John Chavis? Or here's an idea: If Ralph Friedgen gets the boot from Maryland, hire him.

FrankDG said...

This is for anonymous at 9:50 AM--
Watch Wheeling play. He plays hard and gets penetration. He deserves playing time and is playing well. Wheeling is not the problem on defense.

David Hale said...

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.

Similarly, I'm not saying changes don't need to happen on special teams. I just think that it has to start with a change in attitude in the way the ENTIRE STAFF approaches the importance of special teams. A simple tweak here and there won't be the difference you're looking for.

Anonymous said...

FrankDG - not true, Wheeling lived in the Linebacker lanes all afternoon long. No question he was a liability. He weighs 276 according to the website. According to the same website, Rennie Curran is 5'11". Wheeling has no business being in when that means Tyson, Jones, Atkins, Weston or Owens is on the bench.

There is NO excuse for that.

James said...

The reason why Joe Cox's numbers are somewhat comparable to Stafford's is the Arkansas game which completely skews the stats. Arkansas' pass defense is the only SEC pass defense worse than UGA's and they are by far worse. They give an average of 283 yds per game in the air. After that def made Cox the offensive national player of the week, Bama's QB was the SEC offensive player of the week the next week and on Sat, Tex A&M's qb passed for 345yds and 2tds ... I won't include the Ok State game b/c he was sick so against teams that can actually play defense (ASU, LSU and S Car), he has a very average 5td and 4 ints . . . I'm not saying we should bench Cox because he hasn't played badly enough to be benched but he hasn't played well enough to be happy. He's merely a slightly above average QB with a weak arm who struggles with inconsistent accuracy and decision making. That's the frustrating thing about him. Coming into the season, everybody knew he didn't have a strong arm but, being a 5th yr senior, his accuracy and decision making was touted by the coaching staff. However, he has struggled with both. If it wasn't for AJ Green, this team would be 0-5. I agree that the team has more pressing issues than Cox but that's just a commentary on the sad state of affairs in Athens as opposed to being a pat on the back for Cox

Anonymous said...

Corection: JT was not benched by the coaching staff. He had an injury during the USC game if I can recall and Stafford took over. Fact: JT the III was never D1 material and because of who his Daddy was found is way in the starting job???

Anonymous said...

At least JT offered to play special teams when he was not going to be the starting quarterback.

VAdawg said...

I'm just glad to hear that the team still believes that this season can be a good one. If this is true, I think they understand the magnitude of the Tennessee game. It is absolutely imperative that we take care of business in Knoxville. If we lose on Saturday, the season starts to look real long...
Joe Cox is NOT the issue. He's not an all-SEC caliber QB by any stretch, but the real problem on offense is the complete lack of a running game. Richard Samuel goes down WAY too easily, caleb doesn't hit the hole quick enough, carlotn is too small, and the o-line isn't living up to its billing. Washaun needs to be playing A LOT more I think. And for the Logan Gray supporters, the guy just isn't ready for the big time. I do think he should see more time, especially in a wildcat formation, but the reason he doesn't play is because he isn't good enough to see significant time. If he were better than Joe, I guarantee you he would be playing. He doesn't know the offense well enough, plain and simple. David, great stuff, as always.

FrankDG said...

Anon hater of Wheeling--
That's just not true. You saw a different game than I did. Wheeling did a good job when he was in there. He has all year. He's been one of the few linemen to get consistent penetration.
I'm a lot more concerned about linebackers and safeties that are a step off or don't wrap up than Wheeling. Wheeling's getting playing time because he's doing a good job.

UGA69Dawg said...

David,

Your analysis of our kickoff team problems points to the number 1 problem with this team's coaches, special teams is just "another duty as assigned". This is an old military term for doing something that is just added to your job description as an after thought. This is a direct result of the Head Coach and is his philosophy. If he doesn't care enough to coach it himself or have one coach handle it and be responsible for it why should the assistants care. Virginia Tech cares about Special Teams because the coach does more than just say it is important, he puts his money where his mouth is. UF cares about Special Teams and it will show when we get destroyed by them shortly. Richt does not care about special teams.

Michael A said...

I don't think that Logan Gray should be playing over Joe Cox but I'm not buying the "If Logan Gray were better than Joe Cox the coaching staff would obviously know it and play him" argument either. This is the same coaching staff that kept the redshirt on Moreno and just pulled it off Ealey half way into the season.

Anonymous said...

I'll take Joe Cox and go to war with him. Other than the Oklahoma State game, when he had the flu, with the game on the line, he has brought us back every time, from 14 down, in their stadium in ours, with less than two minutes, in the rain, it hasn't mattered. Could he have played better in the first half, yes. Does he have A. J., yes, but Stafford had A. J., Mo Mass, Knowshon, T. Brown, etc.. The QB still has to make the throw to A.J. and he has. We've got as good of players as anyone, more consecutive top ten recruiting classes than any team in the country and we still can't block, defend a pass or cover a kickoff(haven't for two years) and we keep trying to do it the same way. We win a bunch of games on talent alone. Our problem is preparation. Our guys are not prepared to play on Saturdays. Great coaches and great leaders have to make hard decisions. That's what separates the good ones from the great ones.

Anonymous said...

some thoughts...the O line is not as good as we were led to believe...how many of them will make all SEC (1st or 2nd or 3rd team?)we have two undersized TE's that can't block like a big TE can...that means 5 on the OL when you need the TE for 6...not good

the backs are OK but OK won't always move the chains...(Ealey may be an exception)Cox is good but just good can get you beat.WR is solid with AJ...TK is making more impact as we need another playmaker at receiver...

my two cents on the Offense...I don't even want to get going on the Defense but they are holding up pretty well considering all the time they play...DE play with Houston is improving...

later,old dawg

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