Aaron Murray Should Enter the NFL Draft

See you next year Alabama…or not.

Introduction
University of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray faces a pretty big decision in the next two weeks of his young life.  Fresh off yet another impressive win in the Capital One Bowl versus a tenacious but ultimately outmatched Nebraska Cornhusker team, Murray is left to ponder whether or not to enter the NFL draft.  Should Murray turn pro?  We will examine the reasons why his choice should be a resounding moderate ‘yes’.

What Is Left to Accomplish By Coming Back?
After a 12-2 season and a top five finish in the polls, really there are only two hills left for Murray to climb, one personal and the other team-based.  The idea of coming back to shatter a ton of Georgia, SEC, and national passing records has to be appealing, and clearly Murray seems the kind of guy to return for the possibility of a national championship.  However, those two hills I mentioned earlier?  One is a mountain and its name is Alabama.  With the defense in complete rebuilding mode for 2013, I would wager this reality may keep Murray from even believing he can lead Georgia to a national championship…even with what is shaping up to be a dynamic and incredible UGA offense for 2013.

New Horizons/Fresh Opportunities
Aaron Murray has earned multiple diplomas at UGA, as well as leading the Bulldogs heroically through flush and fallow times.  At some point, any athlete is ready to grow to the next level of their chosen sport.  Murray, I am sure, is no exception.  The question remains, of course, whether the erstwhile Bulldog signal caller will feel that in leaving, his business at Georgia was not complete (Murray didn’t ‘finish the drill’).  While this is compelling stuff, the lure of millions of dollars and the national stage of the NFL may prove more compelling.

Dollars, Dollars, and More Dollars
Word is Murray’s initial NFL evaluation has him as a second or third round draft pick.  Considering the relative weakness for quarterbacks in this year’s NFL draft, this year may be Murray’s best opportunity to cash in big.  Is it possible by staying another year at UGA, Murray could improve his draft status?  Most certainly, especially given his reputation for falling short in big games (and Clemson, South Carolina, and LSU in the first four weeks of the 2013 season certainly provide a plethora of big game opportunities), but the possibility remains that Murray could become injured and the Bulldogs 1-3 before next year’s season is a month old.

Many pundits recommend Murray stay in school, finish his degree, enjoy the greatest years of his life, blah blah blah.  Who among us would have the discipline and restraint to not follow millions of dollars now, as opposed to later?

Ranking the Best SEC Teams of 2012

Some of these guys have departed for less greener pastures.

A season is almost complete, and there are some surprises as we offer our opinion of the comparative strength of football teams within the SEC.  Without further ado…

Typical Alabama Fan – All hat and no…(nevermind).

1.  Alabama – Still the King
It may sting, but Alabama is reigning national champion, and licking its chops for the upcoming tilt with Notre Dame.  It is simply impossible NOT to rank Alabama as supreme in the SEC until someone dethrones them.

Nothing can convince me about Alabama’s fans however.  If there was ever a more arrogant backwards bunch of yokels, I would like to meet them (or not).

I believe it is due to a huge inferiority complex emanating from the entire state of Alabama.  They do have nice golf courses over there though.

2.  Georgia – Knocking on Heaven’s Door
This was a tough call, and not because I pondered placing Georgia at Number Uno.  There are a couple of worthy teams that could make a case as best or second-best in the SEC. Yes, UGA had a fairly soft schedule, but so did Alabama, and frankly, last we heard, teams do not set their SEC schedule.  Georgia was embarrassed by South Carolina, but it’s not how you start…it’s how you finish, and Georgia finished with courage and heart.

3.  Texas A&M – The Team Nobody Wants to Play
The juggernaut that is Texas A&M is driven through the arms and legs of Johnny Football.  Arguably the scariest football team in America, Texas A&M (home of the 12th man) reminds me of the 2007 Georgia Bulldogs…that just got stronger and stronger as the year wore on.  Texas A&M is a legitimate contender for not only the best team in the SEC, but in the nation.  Accolades aside however, Texas A&M is not as deep across the board as its SEC brethren.  It will be interesting to see if SEC opponents next year seek to mitigate Johnny Manziel, and thereby render Texas A&M an emperor with no clothes.

Now a Jet, but I never get tired of this.

4.  Florida – Great Team, Suspect Offense
They are not as good as many think.  Love the team spirit. Love the defense. But, alas, the Gators are a team with gaping holes, most notably on the offense.

Expect them to get better with time, and if their rapid seemingly exponential rise continues next year, then watch out.

5.  LSU Tigers – Coulda Been a Contender
This year LSU seemed to be the Georgia of the recent past.  Hard-fought games ending in losses.  Good team with loads of respect, but how much could have been different with the Honey Badger in play?  Their quarterback is young, and played like it (with the stunning exception of the Alabama game).  Speaking of the Alabama game, I believe LSU clearly outplayed Bama in that one.  Right now (and it will change) we must realize that while Alabama is talented and well-coached…they are also very very lucky (two years running).  Watch out for LSU moving forward.

6.  South Carolina Gamecocks – Paradise Lost (Year after Year)
Man, I am starting to hate these guys.  Their coach (who I try to like for his curmudgeonly ways) gets whinier and more petty each year.  Their fans are a bunch of unrealistic hillbillies.  It doesn’t help that UGA has recently found new and interesting ways to lose to this bunch.  But that team…injuries hurt them, and Marcus Lattimore is a badass.  Further, I think Spurrier is making a huge mistake by not appointing Conner Shaw permanent starting quarterback until he graduates…great player undermined by his coach.

To Be A Georgia Bulldog

We are accused of being endlessly optimistic. We are labeled as unreasonably proud, considering our lack of national championships during a decade when seemingly every SEC program has (at least) one of those crystal footballs. We are proclaimed as arrogant, normally with a remark that ‘yes, but (pick one: LSU, AL, AU, TENN, FLA) are worse.’ In a world where everyone can easily voice an opinion via the web, tweeterverse, blogging, and of course, countless forums and discussion forums, what is a Georgia Bulldog fan to do? Ignore them all, I say.

Our Strength Is Our Commitment
I used to marvel at my Mississippi State friends for their optimistic cow bell clanging. South Carolina fans (I have only one friend who is USC alum, and I keep his heritage secret…for his sake) were/are endlessly optimistic. Yet, as the years roll on, I realize that to be a Dawg is also to persevere…to endure…yes, to stay the course.  I believe (and I have wavered on this point) that we have the right coach, so long as his heart remains in the hunt.  I believe our teams play their hearts out.  I believe, and truthfully, I have no other choice.  We may view the summit of our goal…tantalizingly close yet blocked by Saban or Spurrier, but the true journey is the journey itself.  Each and every one of us, whether we speak of college football or life must stay the course.  We only lose when we quit.

To be a Georgia Bulldog is to keep climbing the mountain – keep knocking on the door.  I am so proud of these 2012 Georgia Bulldogs. They believed in themselves when nobody else did…and now?  Well…if you want more from this bunch of Dawgs, then you should fly a different flag, my friend.

Dawg Forever: 2012 SEC Championship – Georgia-Alabama

End of the road…for now.

Mythic Battle
By now, the ending is clear, 32-28 in favor of Alabama.  It seems every third article I read following the battle for the 2012 SEC Championship called it a ‘game for the ages’.  I am bound to agree, and what a wondrous, magical football game it was.  Right before the nation’s eyes, football played by the toughest conference was elevated for three four glorious hours into something mythic.  At the end, how could one not just stare wide-eyed at the gift bequeathed to football fans by the University of Georgia and University of Alabama football teams?  To describe the action is pointless…if you haven’t seen the game, go watch it.  If you have seen the game, then you know of what I speak firsthand.

Georgia/Alabama – Heart of a Lion
Whatever we say about one team must be said of the other.  Resilience. Character. Courage. Grace Under Pressure.  All this and more is referential, and of which team do we speak?  Both teams, of course.  Aaron Murray can win the big game…I always believed this, as it is clear Murray’s troubles are due to a young offensive line more than lack of heart or ability.  To describe Murray or Richt as ‘not. being. able. to. win. the. big. one.’ is unfair in a league as uncompromising as the SEC.  Do you believe Mark Richt has lost his passion?  Then consider that while you and I woke up Sunday to most likely recover from the previous evening’s affairs, Mark Richt and his coaching staff were visiting recruits…one day after the biggest game of the year.  Non-believers check out this AJC story on the subject of Mark Richt’s sunday.

I Remember 1980
I was fourteen the year Georgia last won a national championship.  All I recall of that game was Larry Munson’s gravelly voice and that I cried the day Georgia won against Notre Dame for the national championship.  From where those unexpected tears flowed I did not know, but after a lifetime, I suspect that I understood, even then, that life rarely follows the easy path. For a moment, the promises made by my elders were fulfilled, as I watched my favorite team win it all.

For the first time in thirty years, this past saturday I cried again (twice), sobs really.  I don’t know why I care so much, but I do.  The SEC is tradition and it is rivalry and it is in our roots, our heritage.  Did I shed these tears out of sorrow you may wonder.  Heartbreak perhaps?

No…those were tears of pride my friend.  Play like a champion.

Profiles in Courage: Joe Girardi Pinch-Hits for A-Rod

 

Don’t mess with me…I pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez…and lived to tell about it.

October 10, 2012. 50,497 Yankees fans roaring. Millions of viewers tuning in.  The stage is Game 3 of the ALS Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees down 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth and Alex Rodriguez due up.  Girardi pinch hits for super-star $305 million A-Rod with Johnny Damon Raul Ibanez.  What happened next (and then next again) will be the stuff of legend for years to come.

Rodriguez had not been pinch-hit for since high school.  On this night however, it was time for Rodriguez to take a break driver eight.  Yes, the man with 647 career homeruns and almost 2,000 career RBIs was being asked to stand down.  Low-ball hitter Raul Ibanez delivered, driving a 1-0 pitch deep into the night for the game-tying home run…and A-Rod wasa right there greeting Ibanez at the top step of the dugout with a high-five and hug.

The Finish…Ibanez in the 12th.  40-year old DH Ibanez took Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz’ first pitch into Yankees history with his second home run (this one a walk-off winner) in two at bats and total of three pitches.  Yankees win one for the ages.

Final Note on Kobe Bryant. Laker guard apparently didn’t like Girardi having the stones to pinch-hit Ibanez for A-Rod.  Bryant had this to say: “I don’t like that.  That’s not good for the chemistry of the team. I’m going to have to call A-Rod.”

Kobe Bryant acting like a clown…does your ego know no bounds?  Call A-Rod if you want, but Joe Girardi calls the shots for the men in pinstripes in Yankee-Town.

Herschel Walker Debuts Against UT 1980 (Look at the Blocking)

Below is a wonderful video highlighting Herschel Walker in his debut against the Tennessee Volunteers in 1980.  Really well done, as I was thinking about Herschel after seeing him at the 2012 Tennessee game in Sanford Stadium.  Herschel was indeed impressive, but note the holes that open as the Georgia line pushes the UT defense around…a nice contrast to what happened in Columbia this past saturday night.

Georgia must have strong offensive line play.

Pre-Game Sights and Sounds: UGA-Tennessee 9/29/2012

Quick video collection of some of the pregame sights and sounds we saw prior to the UGA-Tennessee game. Tennessee band…UGA band marching, my wife Angela ringing the chapel bell (an incredible tradition we will write about another time) and some good old chanting. Also…Herschel Walker was on the field at the game…still huge and looks like he still does lots of pushups!

Thanks to Chris and Teresa Davis!

Oddsmakers Delight: Who loses their job first – Mark Richt or Paul Johnson?

See this? This is discipline.

The Fight Card
In one corner, we have Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson, whose Yellow Jackets most recently succumbed to Clemson in the third straight game of yielding 40 points or more.  Defensive Al Groh is gone mid-season…is Paul Johnson soon to follow?  In the other corner, we have long-time Georgia Bulldogs football coach Mark Richt.  Mark Richt piloted a wildly successful program in the early 2000′s, but six years into a woeful stretch in big games, is Mark Richt’s time at Georgia coming to an end?

Mark Richt was on fire early in his career, but has he lost his heart? Paul Johnson is a great offensive mind, possibly a genius in this regard, but arrogance may lead to blindness in critical areas.

Decision in a Stunning Upset:  Mark Richt is shown the door before Paul Johnson.
The belief is that Paul Johnson’s resume and recent work will buy him time (time well-deserved by the way) to return Georgia Tech to its winning ways.  Mark Richt has had this time already.  The problems at UGA (inability to compete with peers, lack of discipline, off-season problems) have become well-established since at least 2007.  In addition, the pressures of winning in the SEC are considerable, and it is highly likely Richt would have been let go by other SEC schools well before now.  Tommy Tuberville at Auburn was fired four years after an undefeated season.

How Many Rounds?
Mark Richt could go as early as the end of this season, but he probably remains the coach through another season or two, depending on the patience of Greg McGarity.  Paul Johnson gets a minimum of two more years.

First minute of first round. No late round heroics needed.

Late Round Knockout Is Possible
Ultimately, I believe Paul Johnson (and any coach long-term) is destined to fail at Georgia Tech by the impossibly high standards of college football today.  Georgia Tech is the kind of program (like Northwestern) that will enjoy modest success now and then, but the academic standards…well they are tough.  Mark Rich could outlast Johnson if the Bulldogs pull off a series off spectacular wins over the next year or so…but I wouldn’t bet on it.

10-2 Not Acceptable for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2012

This is the game this year. This is the ONLY game this year.

Florida will be the litmus test.
Clearly 10-2 is a nice record. More importantly, we might be looking back eight weeks from now on a record much worse than 10-2.  However…I do not think so.  As Mark Bradley correctly pointed out, UGA could and should go at least 10-2 (with a potential lone loss to Florida) and be considered underachievers. The problem, as Mark Bradley correctly ascertains, and as we hinted at in this article about UGA’s propensity for “signature losses” in recent years, is as follows:

“I heard that polar bear Nick Saban is on his way from the Artic.”

Florida looms large.
The University of Georgia’s schedule the last two years has meant that there are only a few games during the season that can even be considered a challenge among peers.  In 2011, Georgia won ten games in a row, but lost every game that really mattered (Boise State, South Carolina, LSU, Michigan State).  We are the epitome of grade school bullies shamed when asked to pick on somebody our own size.

The emperor has no clothes?
Until the University of Georgia football team starts winning games against peers, then the credibility of this program will be nil.  Win at Florida.  Win out.  Play competitively in the SEC Championship.  Represent the SEC proudly in whatever bowl game we are fortunate enough to play in.  That is real grown-man football.