Hey, Joe.

After reading Ben’s impassioned defense of the coaches’ decision to start Joe Cox last season despite Joe’s statistically weak spring, I can’t help but wonder if we’re fighting the wrong battle about last season’s problems on offense.  For me the flawed call wasn’t starting Cox, but going with Samuel and Thomas as the best options at running back for as long as they did.

I recognize that some of that call was the result of preseason injury issues with King and Ealey, but it was pretty apparent early on that the Dawgs weren’t getting sufficient production from the tailback position.  The result was that more of the offense was thrown on the shoulders of Cox and the consequences were about what you might expect:  from the first four games to the next four, (1) passing attempts increased on the order of four per game; (2) passing yardage decreased by more than fifty yards per game; (3) the interception rate increased; and (4) as a consequence, passer rating plummeted.  He simply wasn’t capable of handling the burden placed on him.  And I don’t think there was a quarterback on the roster last year that would have been.

Look what happens in November, though, as the team starts to get traction behind the King/Ealey duo.   Passing attempts per game drop by twelve, but yards per attempt increase dramatically.  The interception rate drops, and the touchdown rate increases.  The passer rating goes up by almost 50%.

There’s no question that Joe deserves his share of the credit and the blame for the ups and downs of last year’s offense.  I agree with Ben that there’s no way Georgia beats Arkansas without Cox; he certainly added fuel to the fire, though, with his decision making in games like Tennessee and Kentucky.  But it seems fair to say that he was handicapped to some extent by being asked to play a bigger role in the offense than was good for either him or the team.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Hey, Joe.

  1. Holt

    I don’t think it’s fari to throw Carlton Thomas under the bus. He really had little impact and he had very few carries. The majority of our fanbase has written this kid off because of his size and untimely fumbles. But in the two games where he’s been giving a real chance to shine – he’s shown that he can make plays very similar to Knowshown.

    Of course, I love the Ealey/King tandem too and I feel safe with just those two in the backfield. But Thomas can play. Keep in mind that our coaching staff sat on Moreno for almost two seasons before they gave him a real chance. Plus, it took an injury to Thomas Brown to force the move.

    Our coaches know more than I know football. But they don’t know everything. Their eye for talent has proven to be imperfect before.

  2. HVL Dawg

    How about someone assigning some responsibility to the offensive line? Funny how our running backs started being productive once we started winning some battles at the line of scrimmage.

    • NCT

      I can’t remember where, but around the time we hired Searels, I saw a comment from an LSU fan that complained about how it took Searels several games into each season to find the right combination of guys to get the job done optimally. I have no complaints about him, and it’s impossible to discount the role injuries have played since his hire, but coincidence or not, his lines at UGA have been consistent with that LSU comment.

  3. JC in Powder Springs

    Dawgs have 2 fine RB’s, 2 journeyman FB’s, 4 good TE’s, and a talented WR corps led by an all-american. With 5 starters returning and a strong bench, this is the O-line we’ve all been waiting for. Throw in one of the best FG kickers in the nation.

    Any OC worth a dime would be salivating for the talent UGA has! Even with a young QB, this offense shouldn’t have much trouble scoring. But if Dawgs can’t coach Cox up, regulate his role in the offense, and correct his mistakes, what chance do they have with a new QB with 3 fewer years experience?

    I’m not too concerned about the new D or special teams. I think they’re correcting past mistakes and they’ll be fine. It’s the QB coaching and offensive playcalling that worries me. We don’t need a heisman candidate. The new QB needs to know his (preferably limited) role, get the ball to the other talented players, and let them make the plays.

    • sUGArdaddy

      You are so right about that QB coaching. DJ was so unprepared when he took over and we never developed Stafford into the #1 prospect he was projected to be. And then there’s Joe T. I mean, when he took over for DJ that game against Florida, he looked totally unprepared and they blew us out. And, gosh, we had the worst QB this year since Greg Talley and didn’t make a bowl. Wait…none of that happened.

      DJ was prepared in his only season (and somehow we got him to stick around). Stafford did get drafted #1, and averaged 10 wins as a starter. Joe T somehow almost beat Florida in an emergency start. And Joe Cox did win 8 games and win a bowl. And believe me, I’m right about the Talley comparison. Here’s every full-time, full-season QB since Talley: Zeier, Bobo, Quincy, Greene, DJ, Stafford. All remarkably better than Joe. No knock on the kid, he’s just not as talented as those guys. And for the record, Talley’s last year as a full-time starter (’90), we went 4-7 and fielded one of our worst teams in the modern era. It ain’t the QB coaching. That doesn’t mean every play-call is right, but it ain’t the QB coaching.

  4. Great post! I would add that play calling went off track.

    I would bet our “2nd and 10’s” went up proportionally to pass attempts.

    Furthermore, far too many of our running attempts in the first half of the season were east-west and out of the shotgun.

    I love Richt and Bobo, but it was apparent we had coaching issues early last year like we have not experienced since 2001.

    Ealey and King may have been the inspiration, or the key, but we were playing a different style of offensive football from the 2nd possession in Stillwater until the Vandy game.

    • NRBQ

      Yes, the old sprint-draw.

      (feeling some nausea just thinking about it)

      Can we please see the backs headed UP-FIELD when taking the hand-off?

  5. Dboy

    The O-line was a disaster with run blocking in the first half of the year. Ealey was an injured true freshman and King had several injuries as well. We never got to see Samuel towards the end of the season with the improved line. I wonder how he would have looked (not that I think that he is a natural runner like ealey/king) I remember some big holes and runs by D. Jackson in the Vandy game that resembled what the ealey / king duo saw against GT. I agree with you to a certain degree Senator… but there were some other things going on besides just sitting those two guys on the bench and not thinking to put them in the game. Sometimes, taking off the redshirt works (ealey) and sometimes it doesn’t (M. Brown).

  6. Cojones

    What would you have done from the git-go and during the season? How would your coaching reasoning have differed given the circumstances changing during the year. No chrystal ball crud, just logic would be appreciated. You either implied or I inferred incorrectly that you could have done better. Monday morning QB-ing has taken a step back from the unreality it once had to after-the-year QB-ing which doesn’t prove jacksh–. Why are we questioning our coaches? How about something positive for a change. Dissecting a 4-month old dead horse just stinks up the place and doesn’t help the horse either.

    • Why are we questioning our coaches? Because it’s the off season and we’ve got nothing better to do. ;)

      As for what I would have done, I would have taken a closer look at what the backs did in the Arkansas game and made changes for the ASU game. And then I would have committed far more heavily to the run earlier than the Vandy game. I don’t know how that would have worked out, but I think it would have been better for Joe’s game.

  7. dawgfan17

    I believe the coaches would have gotten Murray some action last year had he not gotten hurt and missed some practice time. Other than that I don’t see much else we could have done at the qb position last year and I believe is Sturivant (sp?) hadn’t been out for the year and Davis out early in the year the line would have played better early on and the offense would have been able to run the ball better all year long and taken pressure off of Cox. While Cox had to do everything he did in the Arkansas game to beat them it also gave a false sense of what he was capable of and I think led to him and the coaches trying to put to much on him for the rest of the year. For all the knocks on Cox and the play calling last year we still tied with Arkansas for first in SEC ppg last year. We return 10/11 of those players and yet everyone talks about what Arkansas and Alabama have coming back on offense this year. I like that we are flying under the radar and think with just steady play from the qb position we can be the best offense in the SEC this year.

  8. Cojones

    Senator-

    Your honest answer is appreciated. And I gathered that you wouldn’t have done much differently and that puts you in the boat with the rest of us. dawgfan17 expresses my sentiment almost completely. Many of us will prefer to hedge our emotional bet on the Dawgs this year in order not to go into full depression as we almost did this last year. Some of us will however keep our necks out and vulnerable to any disappointment while continuing to use the definition of a fan as the reason not to analyze ourselves into the funny farm.

    Your character signature was my favorite idiot in Animal House. That fraternity reminded me so much of mine such that after it’s release many friends remarked that they were reminded of my stories when they saw the movie. Although it’s going to be a long hot summer the Dawg stories are welcomed, but sometimes perceptions of digs at coaches and players don’t resonate well. I’m just another sp[oiled fan who wants to hear good news in order to make it to the Fall Practices. Is there anything in place that can relay individual practices by players who band together(i.e., Murray and receivers, etc.) for the summer? That would make for uplifting reading to keep our spirits up.

  9. Vious

    I have never seen a QB go after his own fans as much as Cox did

    He would screw up and attack the fans for talk of replacing him.

    It may suck and be unfair but ALL QB’s go through it and he must deal with it

    If that bothers him so much, he should change professions