Georgia Bulldog Nation: Get Off Joe Cox!

Bill BrownellCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2009

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Quarterback Joe Cox #14 and Tavarres King #12 celebrate a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs of the South Carolina Gamecocks at Sanford Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There are a lot of Bulldog fans out there who are far from satisfied with the way their Dawgs have been performing so far this season. I’m one of them.

In the fan world, there are two kinds of fans. There are those fans who watch the trees - the X's and O's, individual player performances in each and every play and trends and stats of various parts of the team.

They also look at how the Dawgs match up against opposing players, defenses, offenses, positions and coaches. It takes time, study and dedication to do this, but it usually results in good analysis and reasoning.

Then there are those fans who can see nothing except the forest (the forest fans) - those who see nothing more than wins and losses, scores and on which end of the field UGA spends its time.

These are the fans who come to kneejerk opinions with very little intellectual analysis. They normally jump on what they perceive as the popular bandwagon of the day - because it (and their equally uninformed friends) must be right. They are usually the ones that go the easy route of finding an easy scapegoat.

Joe Cox is the forest fans’ scapegoat. He has been before he ever took his first 2009 season snap.

And I’m fed up with it! So let's set the record straight.

There is no question that this team has a lot of improving to do - from our very knowledgeable head coach (no sarcasm at all intended) down to the water boys (not the water girl). But this article will not address the areas that need improving. It WILL address the area of the team that, contrary to the popular opinion of the uninformed, needs the least improvement.

A little historical background

Joe Cox came to UGA from North Carolina in 2005. He was highly recruited by UGA and ranked as the No. 7 highschool football QB in the country. He had an undefeated 31-0 record as a starter in highschool; in his Sr year he held the North Carolina state record of 66 TD passes in one year as he lead his team to its fifth consecutive state title.

He arrived during DJ Shockley’s Sr year and was redshirted. Fortunately for UGA - but unfortunately for Joe Cox - Matthew Stafford, ranked as the No. 1 highschool QB in the country was recruited. He came to UGA the year after Cox.

Since then and through to the present, Cox has had to endure constant comparisons to the very flashy and strong armed Stafford - and constant criticism.

In the first half of 2006, when QB Joe Tereshinski III was struggling with both performance and injuries in his first year as starter, Coach Richt gave both Stafford and Cox a lot of playing time. Both had moments of brilliance as well as moments of struggle.

In the game against Colorado, starter Matt Stafford was not able to get the offense going. Late in the third quarter UGA was down 13-0. Coach Richt put Joe Cox in. In that fourth quarter, Joe Cox was able to put together two successful drives leading the Dawgs to a thrilling 14-13 comeback win.

Coach Richt decided that Joe Tereshinski was just not going to make it as the starting QB. He was benched. He then had to make a decision on whether to designate Stafford or Cox as the starter.

Likely because of his superior arm strength, Stafford secured the position and Cox was given leftovers and a hope that he might still become the starter one day.

Everyone in the country knew of and watched Stafford’s flashy style. They watched his occassional long pass completions. They watched him at QB, leading the Dawgs to 8-4, 10-2 and 9-3 regular seasons. He didn’t win a Heisman, an SEC or a National title; but he was a very good QB.

 The Joe Cox era begins

Then the January 2009 shocker. Both Stafford and Knowshon Moreno were leaving UGA after just three years to go into the NFL. Dawg fans cried and moaned about how horrible the 2009 season was going to be. "We have no quarterback now." "Joe Cox is certainly no Matt Stafford."

That was the way the Bulldog nation welcomed Joe Cox to his new position as the Dawgs starter and leader. He was further fortunate enough to inherit one of the toughest schedules the Dawgs have seen in years.

Most of the "forest fans" immediately began calling for Joe C to stay on the sideline - before he even took his first 2009 season snap. They haven’t stopped - although they can’t statistically or rationally justify their reasoning. He just makes a real convenient scapegoat.

But the true sports intellectual knows better. They are the ones that know when Joe Cox is carefully and statistically compared to Matt Stafford, he is just as good a QB and has leadership qualities surpassing Stafford. Those individuals also know that the present Bulldog woes have little to nothing to do with Joe Cox.

While Stafford was at UGA, Cox played in 4 games in 2006, 4 games in 2007 and 3 games in 2008. In 2008, Cox completed 73% of his passes (Stafford 61%). He threw zero interceptions (Stafford 10). And he had a 201 pass efficiency rating (Stafford 154).

In Stafford's first 5 full games as starter, he threw for 8 interceptions, 5 TDs and 1038 yards. The most he threw in any one of those first five games was 267 yards against Miss. State. He went 3-2. In the 8 complete games he started in his first year, he only had 7 TDs - with 13 interceptions.

In Cox's first 5 full games as starter, he has thrown for 6 interceptions, 11 TDs and 1212 yards. The most he threw in those first 5 games was 375 yards against South Carolina. He has gone 3-2. He also tied the UGA record for most TDs thrown in one game - five.

Last year, No. 8 Alabama was up on No. 3 Georgia 31-0 at the half. There was no offensive performance from Stafford in that half. Four games later, Georgia lost to Florida 49-10. In that game, Stafford threw three interceptions and no TDs. Joe Cox threw the only Georgia TD of the game. After these extremely disappointing performances by Stafford, did we hear anything about Stafford being benched? No.

But, after both the Oklahoma State game and the LSU game, when Joe C’s game wasn’t the best, but nowhere near as bad as Stafford’s was against Florida and Alabama, the screams about Cox’s complete lack of ability and the demands that he be benched were virtually deafening.

Last year, No.1 NFL draft pick, Matt Stafford, finished with a pass efficiency rating of 154. In 2007, Stafford had a per of 128. In 2006, it was 109. Before the LSU game, Joe Cox had a pass efficiency rating of 154. It’s now at 146. By comparison, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford has a per of 153; Miami's Jacory Harris has a per of 151; Texas' Colt McCoy has a per of 150.

A QB's biggest influence on the field is on the passing game. He's not calling plays; he simply executes the plays being called. Other than designed or desperation runs, QBs have virtually nothing to do with the run game.

Right now there are only eight QBs in the top 100 rush players. Neither Cox nor Stafford have ever made that top 100. Cox is now averaging -2.3 yards per carry; but last year he averaged +4.7 ypc. Last year, Stafford averaged +.7 ypc. In 2007 he averaged -.5 ypc. Neither Stafford nor Cox had, or is having, any significant impact on the run game - negative or positive.

The Dawgs’ problem is not their pass offense and it is not at the QB position. The problem UGA is having right now is in our run game and our defense.

Last year UGA averaged 148 rushing yards per game. This year they are averaging 99. Last year the defense gave up an average of 312 yards per game. This year they are giving up 358 ypg.

Joe Cox's primary job on the field is completing passes. UGA is now averaging 242 passing yards per game. It is in the top 30% nationally and 3rd in the SEC behind only Auburn and Arkansas. Joe Cox is the third best passer in the SEC.

 Cox has little to do with the anemia in the run game. He has nothing to do with the defense giving up so many yards or points. Unfortunately, the QB is center stage and in the spotlight. So in the eyes of the forest fans, if UGA performs badly, it must be Joe’s fault!

What more do you want out of Joe Cox?

Many have been screaming for weeks/months to bench Joe Cox and make Logan Grey or Aaron Murray the starter. What do we KNOW about Grey or Murray that will definitely add to the program?

Do we want a Fr QB playing against the most hungry and talented players in college football in front of 90,000 screaming fans whose only accomplishment is a good high school record? How many poor performances do we give them before we call for them to be benched?

How many more losses do we risk and how bad can the season get by replacing Cox with an unknown and completely inexperienced freshman QB? How big a bowl game would we be risking?

Right now we have two losses - only one in the SEC. It would be foolish and irresponsible to take these risks and virtually write off this season all in the name of "getting him ready for next season"?

We can all agree that the best players need to be on the field. The question is, who decides who are the best players? Should it be the fans who whine when we're not winning every game? Or should it be the coaches who see these young men working out, drilling and scrimmaging pre-season and every day through the season.

Coach Richt played DJ Shockley during the David Green era and played Joe Cox during the Matt Stafford era. That was because Coach Richt knew that both Shockley and Cox were good and ready enough to definitely help the program.

Contrary to most of the forest fans’ accusations, Coach Richt does know how to pull the plug on a non-performer. Ask Joe Tereshinski III who was a Sr QB and came from a long pedigree of UGA football players and a very influential alumnae family.

Coach Richt and the other coaches see Murray and Grey daily and know their abilities and level of readiness to play against the best players, teams and coaches in college football. The Coaches are not playing Murray and rarely play Grey because they do not feel that they are good or ready enough to definitely help the program.

While Matt Stafford was here, we had the UGA Staffordogs. But everyone was complaining that there was no swagger, no fight, no pride - no Bulldogs. This year the fight and swagger is back. The "team" spirit is back.

The area of this year's Bulldog team that is least in need of improvement is the passing game - the area where Joe Cox has the most impact. Joe Cox is an excellent QB as shown by the statistics. He has proven himself. He has earned the right to be the Dawgs' 2009 QB. And he will have an excellent season.


How about we stop whining about Joe Cox who has a record as good or better than Matt Stafford. How about we stop calling for him to get benched just to see whether someone else MIGHT do better. How about we stop using Joe Cox as the scape goat for everything else that is wrong with this Bulldog team.

How about we start giving Joe Cox the credit he deserves. How about we get behind Joe C whether the Dawgs are doing well or in a slump.

How about we start giving Joe Cox the confidence he needs and deserves from this powerful and proud Bulldog nation - and together we take care of the rest of this season.


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