The psychology of Stafford vs. Cox

I hate to pick on David Ching to make a point, but I think he’s 180 degrees off when he says this:

… Ask yourself who wanted to win last year’s Georgia-Florida game more: Matthew Stafford or Tim Tebow. The answer to that question was clear when the Gators turned a 14-3 halftime lead into a 49-10 victory – not that Stafford alone deserves the blame for that loss.

I don’t think Matt’s problem in the second half was that he didn’t care enough.  Quite the opposite – I think he cared too much.  In his own way, I believe he was guilty of having the same mentality that Reshad Jones and Michael Moore noted gripped the team last year.

“That had a lot to do with our downfall,” safety Reshad Jones said. “We weren’t as one. We were high ranked. Other guys were looking at other big-name guys. We weren’t focused on the task ahead of us.”

On offense, those big name guys were Stafford and Moreno – stars who showed up in highlights and led the SEC in passing and rushing, respectively. They were guys players expected to pick up the team when it needed a boost.

“You kind of felt that you could depend on Stafford to make the throw or you could depend on Knowshon to make that one run that’s going to change the game,” said senior receiver Michael Moore…

Against a team as talented as Florida, feeling like you have to pick up and carry your team on your shoulders isn’t conducive to playing winning football.  And it showed.

The only reason I mention this is because whatever kind words are being tossed Joe Cox’ way right now, nobody is expecting him to do the same thing with this year’s squad, including Cox himself.  The Florida game shows that there’s an upside to that.  Maybe the lows won’t be as much of a meltdown in ’09.

On the other hand, I hope we aren’t going to see moments like we did against Kentucky and Georgia Tech last year, when the defense fell apart and it was Stafford who kept bringing the team back.  Because – no reflection on Joe, but he’s not going to be a number one draft pick any time soon – the highs this year at QB probably won’t be as high, either.

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38 Comments

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38 responses to “The psychology of Stafford vs. Cox

  1. Joe B.

    I just keep thinking to myself that Calvin Johnson had 1200 yds and 15 TD’s with Reggie Ball at QB.

    Joe may not be Stafford, but he sure as heck is better than Ball.

    I cannot wait to see what AJ Green does this year.

  2. dean

    I kinda thought the same thing when I read Ching’s article. To me it seemed as if Stafford was trying too hard. Looked to me like he was forcing throws most of the game. He just never seemed to get into any kind of rhythm. Now once we got down by about 30 points he may have mailed it in but to say he didn’t want to win at the start of the 2nd half……. I can’t agree with that.

    I feel confident in saying we won’t see Cox throw for 400 yards this year. Not because he can’t but because he won’t have to.

  3. I believe Stafford’s biggest problem in the Florida game was lack of confidence in his pass protection. His two third quarter interceptions were both underthrown because he threw off of his back foot instead of stepping into the throw. On both occasions he had his man wide open for a big play – as he did all afternoon before the wheels fell off. Florida sold out to stop Moreno – which they did – and that left receivers running open all over the place. At times, Staff hit them for big gains. But protection issues kept him from making more plays. Damn I wish he could have played behind this year’s OL. Hopefully, that will be the key ingredient for Cox to succeed.

  4. JaxDawg

    Exactly Hamp. Stafford threw the int to Haden, intended for Greene, off his back foot and clearly with a DE in his face. A poor decision by Stafford which resulted in a game-changing play for Florida.

    Not picking on Matt, but while we’re on the topic, he made alot of these decisions that cost us dearly at times. And yes, a weaker OL will do that to a QB – to be fair.

  5. Lowcountry Dawg

    I saw something I thought was telling about Matthew Stafford in last year’s Florida game. I believe it was near the end of the first half when he threw behind an open tight end in the end zone. The camera was on Stafford, and he cupped his hands outward as if to say ‘give me a target’ instead of patting his chest and saying ‘my bad.’

    I may be the exception, but I thought that was self centered, or ‘it’s about me.’

    • D.N. Nation

      Or he was properly telling his receivers to give him a target. Sheesh.

      • Lowcountry Dawg

        Don’t sheesh me. He threw behind a receiver who was just properly running a crossing route. Scuse me for speaking ill, but the mistake on the play was Stafford’s.

        • The Realist

          He wanted the tight end to sit down in the empty zone instead of continuing his route into coverage.

          • Texas_Dawg

            Exactly.

            And his tight end was an utter disaster and completely incapable of playing the position with any confidence at that point in his career.

            This “new leadership” line is nice… but pretty typical of a fan base in the preseason. Everything is always going to be much better in the season to come.

            Unfortunately, CFB doesn’t always work that way.

  6. Lowcountry Dawg

    Heck, if an offensive line can make John Lastinger a 10 game winner in 83, it can do wonders for Joe Cox.

  7. Missing the incredibly wide open Chandler in the end zone was huge at that point in the game and cost us a chance to seize the momentum. I agree with Realist that perhaps Chandler was supposed to settle in the open area instead of continuing to cross into a possibly defended area… but I don’t know how the play is drawn up and how the players practiced that route. The bottom line is, Chandler and Stafford should have been on the same page in that regard. 9 out of 10 times, that would have been a touchdown throw for Stafford either way, but the Jax Jinx got him.

    • Texas_Dawg

      The bottom line is, Chandler and Stafford should have been on the same page in that regard.

      No they shouldn’t have been. Because Trip Chandler by that point in his career was an utter wreck of a player who was completely shot through with incompetence, self doubt, and missed playing time due to injury. So he had no rhythm with his QB (as our WRs did in a big way last year) and his QB, understandably, had zero trust in him.

      Just another bad break for us that Stafford showed up at a time where we had no functional TE (an extremely valuable weapon in our offense as we saw with great TEs in the Greene/Shockley years).

      • Texas… Regardless of your opinion of Chandler, the fact remains that in the first week of November, a QB in his third year as starter and a senior TE with dozens of starts under his belt “SHOULD” have been on the same page. That they were not may or may not prove your point about Chandler. But you are in error saying that “no they shouldn’t have been”. Of course they “SHOULD” have been. Lack of confidence in this player or that player does not excuse a starting QB and starting TE from understanding how to execute a particular play – ever.

        On your other point, I agree 100%. It will be great to have the TE re-emerge as a weapon in this offense again this year.

  8. Turd Ferguson

    I guess I’m in the minority here, but … I tend to agree with Ching here. There were certainly times when Stafford really seemed to be affected by the game. But during much of the 2008 season, he seemed almost completely unaffected by it all. In a game as big as the Georgia-Florida game, I’d like to see the team’s near-unanimous pick as their leader patrolling the sidelines, keeping the offensive line hyped, coaching up his receivers, cheering on the defense, etc. At one point during the game, however, Stafford threw a pick … and then calmly walked to the bench, sat down, and sipped on some Gatorade. Now, I’m not saying that it wasn’t eating him up on the inside … but (a) if it was, it was sure hard to tell, and (b) frankly, I don’t care if it was eating him up on the inside … if he’s not using that as motivation to keep the team in the game.

    I’m about as anti-Tebow as it gets. I think the guy’s got positively awful mechanics, I think he’s nowhere near as modest as he puts on, and I look forward to his future as a total bust in the NFL. But there’s one thing that is impossible to deny about him: he knows how to lead a football team. Whether they’re playing Charleston Southern in the opener or Texas in the National Championship, you’ll never see the kid sitting on the bench, calmly sipping Gatorade. Winning college football games just MATTERS to Tim Tebow more than it did to Matt Stafford.

    (Alternatively, I think Stafford’s demeanor actually lends him to be a better pro QB than someone with Tebow’s demeanor … but that’s a different discussion.)

    • georgiadawg85

      I don’t think there is anything productive in Tebow’s “look at me” antics on the sideline. All it does is glorify himself to his worshippers in the stands.

      • Turd Ferguson

        You’re confusing his “look at me” antics (which I admit are certainly there) with his “I’m not gonna let this team lose” antics (which, by the players’ own accounts, have rallied them through some of Florida’s more challenging games in the past few years).

        Listen, I think of Tebow as an attention whore just as much as the next guy. But in the midst of all the crying, speech-giving, and other such annoyances, he’s been about a thousand times the team leader that Matthew Stafford was last season. And the comments from the supporting casts of both teams bear me out on this one.

    • Texas_Dawg

      There were many times Stafford was seen on the sideline addressing teammates, etc. You just don’t remember those because 2008 (the year after he led the team to a #2 season as a true sophomore while Tim Tebow’s team was going 9-4) was a disappointing year. But it was a disappointing year not because of Stafford (who, only 3 years out of HS (not 5 as Greene/Shockley were in their best seasons) set several UGA QB season records) but because the team was decimated by injuries.

      Football history is filled with countless leaders who were absolutely stoic on the sideline. You probably would have confused them for being indifferent to wins and losses as well. Silly error.

    • ArchDawg

      I concur with everything re: Tebow above. I’m so tired of hearing about him it’s sickening. I think that team’s going to miss Harvin a little more than the media wants to let on.

  9. 69Dawg

    Let’s just admit that the Dawgs pi$$ed their pants last year in Jax. S happens and it happened there. After 40 years of UF I would much rather lose in a blowout than like we did in 2002. The best team won in 2008 not in 2002 or 2003.

  10. Jax Dawg

    As far as Stafford’s vs. Tebow’s desire to win:

    I believe both want to win very much. I just believe Tebow hates to lose more than Stafford.

    Good point above about sipping the Gatorade and kicking back on the bench. I too think Tebow is an immense grandstander whose jumping jacks and sophomoric actions are akin to Michael Irvinesque showboating, but he hates to lose and that my friends, is often times alot more critical than wanting to win.

  11. georgiadawg85

    I think blaming it on Stafford or saying Tebow wanted it more is an absurd argument. Tebow had the best defense in the country working for him. Stafford had one of the worst. People seem to forget how many games Matt came out after the defense had failed again and drove the team down the field. Yeah, he made some mistakes, but he was trying to make SOMETHING happen.

    I think it’s a mistake to think that because Stafford wasn’t into the attention-whoring and drama like Tebow is, that he didn’t want the win as much.

    • D.N. Nation

      Tebow once played with a defense as bad as Stafford’s mates in ’08. The result: 9-4, 5th in the conference, a home loss to freakin Auburn, and a bowl disaster against The Team That Lost To Appy State. So.

      • Texas_Dawg

        That defense was actually a good bit better than the defense Stafford’s team had last year. ’07 UF’s defense was 7th in the SEC in points allowed per game. ’08 UGA’s was 10th… just 0.3 ahead of LSU’s in 11th.

    • Turd Ferguson

      What’s just as absurd is to deny the stark difference between Tebow’s and Stafford’s respective leadership abilities. Especially in light of the fact that, ever since spring practices began, the team has basically admitted that there was an awful lack of leadership last season … despite their near-unanimous choice of Stafford as their leader. And in the meantime, just about every Florida player not named Tim Tebow has spent the past two years gushing about how THEIR leader helped them summon the sort of effort it took to collectively win ball games.

      And for the record, I’m not “blaming” anything on Stafford. Nor am I denying the differences between Tebow’s supporting cast and Stafford’s supporting cast. So chill with the strawman attacks.

      • Texas_Dawg

        Especially in light of the fact that, ever since spring practices began, the team has basically admitted that there was an awful lack of leadership last season …

        Ha. Is this your first year reading off-season quotes from CFB players after a disappointing season?

        • Turd Ferguson

          Nope. Nor was 2008 my first time watching a poorly-led team fail to live up to expectations.

  12. David Greene

    I won more games than any quarterback in the history of organized high-division college football, all with a calm, quiet demeanor.

    • Turd Ferguson

      David Greene also did many of the things I describe above, i.e., things I expect team leaders to be doing during football games … and things I rarely, if ever, noticed Mr. Stafford doing. Which just goes to show you: people with all sorts of personality types can be great leaders. Unfortunately, Matthew Stafford was not one of them. Great arm; awful leader.

      • Texas_Dawg

        Got any specific examples of times Greene did things on the sideline that Stafford never did? Or are you just making all this up as you go along?

        Btw… had Kentucky finished the final 5 yards of the drive against Tennessee in ’07 and UGA then won the SECC/MNC (as they would have), would Stafford still have been an “awful leader”? Do you think Joe Cox will lead the team to better than 10 wins if he loses Sturdivant, Owens, has no functional TE, has a defense that finishes just above dead last in the SEC, etc.? Or would a 10-3 (6-2) season (6-2 bested by only one UGA team in the Richt era… and that largely because of an absurdly loaded defense and OL) with those things happening make Cox and awful leader as well?

        • Turd Ferguson

          I watched David Greene manage football games throughout high school and college. If you honestly think that — in terms of their rapport with teammates and natural leadership abilities — Stafford is even in the same ballpark as Greene, then you’re a raving idiot.

          I’m terribly sorry for not being quite as slobbery as you are in my appreciation of Matthew Stafford.

      • There are a lot of ways to lead. I’ve always been impressed with what Stafford did in last year’s Kentucky game after the MoMass fumbles – he went right back to him for the biggest offensive play of the game. That was after we saw him bucking up MM on the sidelines.

  13. shane#1

    I remember the play with Chandler in the end zone and he should have turned to face the QB when he got open. Stafford’s arm would have gotten the ball there before any defenders could make a play. Why keep running when you are open and the qb has an open throwing lane? In Chandler’s defense I don’t know how much practice time he had missed due to injury so his timing with Staff could have been off. Stafford took some pretty good shots in that game so I don’t blame him if he had lost some confidence in his blocking. Spikes really rang his bell on a blitz! That could be a reason he wasn’t more animated, it’s hard to have your head in the game when your head is in the clouds, though he wasn’t much of a rah rah guy anyway. I remember one play last year when AJ ran the wrong route and brought his two defenders into Mo-Mass’s corner of the end zone resulting in an int. Stafford trotted off the field and merely unsnapped his chinstrap in disgust.

  14. Turd Ferguson

    Let me go on record publicly apologizing for daring to call into question even one of Stafford’s attributes. I mean, I’ve elsewhere given him plenty of credit for the things for which I thought he deserved credit. But I’ll never again dare to suggest that he’s not quite the team leader that a certain showboater in Gainesville clearly is. I mean, it’s so obviously true, it’s crazy to me that I’d even have to defend the claim. But regardless, I clearly should not have MADE the claim in the company of such clearly rational people.

    Now, could someone please pass me some o’ that potent Kool-aid?

  15. Lowcountry Dawg

    Is 31 the comment record?

  16. Alex

    Im not being sarcastic. That was the best blog argument I have ever read. All excellent arguments. Unfortunately if I HAD to win one football game, Tebow would be my qb not Stafford because Tebow hates to lose so damn much. But our awful defense, o line, tight ends, coaching, and injuries last year was undeniable. Like trying comparing apples to oranges.

  17. ArchDawg

    Do the people who dog Stafford for last year’s Florida game remember also give him credit for going into #5 Auburn as a true freshman–after we lost 3 out of 4 games–and embarrassing them in their house? Or the three game winning streak that closed that season (again, true freshman)? Or the clutch OT win against a higher-ranked ‘Bama team in ’07 (that basically derailed their season)? The amazing winning streak we had at the end of that season, finishing #2 in the country?

    How about the games we actually won last year because he was our QB? You know, because our defense gave out leads like candy and condoms on Halloween?

    Just because he wasn’t a media suckup doesn’t mean he didn’t know how to lead a team. Remember, he was 1-1 against Tebow.

  18. ArchDawg,

    In 2007 against South Carolina, Stafford put two balls into the hands of his targets that should have been TDs. Had either been caught, we win that game and play for the SECC with a near-automatic berth in the MNC on the line.

    Winning the conference and getting a shot at the MNC requires, great players, great coaching and some luck. It always requires some luck.

    I suppose it can be argued that the Darryl Gamble fumble recovery against Vandy was once when luck went our way in 2007. But that SC game was just deplorable in the fortune department.