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.