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December 13, 2013

Where's Aaron At?

Although not quite No. 1, in my book,
Murray finishes his career as one of the
top three Georgia quarterbacks of all time.
With Aaron Murray's Bulldog career now officially over, as some of you can attest to when you plunked down $35 for his autograph last Saturday at the Georgia Square Mall (but, I digress...), I'm going to field a question I've been asked in some form or another a number of times over the last couple of years.  As one emailer asked a few days ago, "Where's Aaron at as far as Georgia's all-time greatest quarterbacks?"  

I've attempted to rank the greatest quarterbacks in UGA's modern football history, or since the Bulldogs began utilizing a drop-back style passing quarterback in the mid-1940s.  The rankings are based on several factors, including statistics/records, longevity, his team's overall performance, plus, my opinion of how the teams of each quarterback would have fared without him under center, but replaced with your average, run-of-the-mill quarterback.
I originally was going to slot a top ten, but had a rather difficult time deciding on the final and 10th-best amongst three Bulldog signal callers.  Therefore, and for what it's worth, here's my opinion of the dynamic dozen greatest Georgia quarterbacks in history:    
Hon. Ment.: D.J. SHOCKLEY (2002-05): Since failing to start a single entire season while at Georgia, it's difficult for me to rank him amongst UGA's greatest quarterbacks; however, based on his remarkable 2005 season alone, Shockley is certainly worthy of mention...Passing for 2,500+ yards, rushing for 300+, while responsible for 28 TDs, led Georgia to its last SEC title.  Shockley's impact was perhaps most appreciated when he was lost to injury for almost two entire games in 2005, resulting in a near setback to Arkansas and loss to Florida.
12. QUINCY CARTER (1998-00): You can question his character and integrity, wonder how the heck he threw five INTs vs. South Carolina in 2000, and if he really was injured later that season.  And, he's the only Bulldog on this list whose performance clearly went into decline as his Georgia career wore on.  However, when he was at his best, there was maybe no one better than Quincy Carter.  Despite playing for just 2½ years, he ended career with 22 wins as a starter and 2nd-most passing yards in school history...Over the last 37 seasons, he is the only Bulldog quarterback to rush for 100+ yards in a single-game victory!  

11. RAY GOFF (1974-76): Has been described as Georgia's best option quarterback ever in a program's history that ran a lot of option...Team was 18-5 when Goff started under center (notably, 14-7-1 against the spread), but a good portion of that success can be attributed to a great surrounding cast, including being interchanged with QB Matt Robinson.  Despite sharing time at quarterback, Goff finished 7th in 1976 Heisman voting...1,434 career rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs still rank second all time among UGA quarterbacks.

10. BUCK BELUE (1978-81): Belue's .871 career winning percentage (27-4 starting record) is second highest in UGA history; he's the only Bulldog to quarterback back-to-back SEC championship teams, and the lone signal caller to capture an undisputed national title.  Plus, he is the only Georgia quarterback in history to be recognized as first-team all-conference in consecutive seasons.  However, it's no coincidence Belue's stature and performance greatly improved (INT every 10 pass attempts in 1978-79; INT every almost 20 attempts in 1980-81), as did the entire team's, with the arrival of Herschel Walker in 1980.
 9. ZEKE BRATKOWSKI (1951-53): The Brat's passing statistics may appear nearly appalling, including 68 career interceptionsan NCAA three-year record which likely will never be broken.  However, he is an excellent example of a good quarterback on bad teams (Georgia 15-17 record in 1951-53), while his passing prowess was absolutely, in a word, feared by opposing defenses.  Averaging just under 40 yards per boot, the guy could punt as well...
Speaking of, during my recent interview with Bratkowski, he informed me of a good football trivia question:  The 1st and 2nd quarterbacks of the 1st and 2nd Super Bowl-winning teams (Bratkowski and Bart Starr) finished 1st and 2nd in the NCAA in 1953 in what statistical category?  Punting

 8. ANDY JOHNSON (1971-73): You likely won't find Johnson's name on any other listing of Georgia's all-time greatest quarterbacks.  However, just ask the players who were at UGA the same time as the underappreciated Johnson, and there were few players on the field better than him, and probably no better athlete...Notable 23-7-2 record as a starter, including quarterbacking the 11-1 '71 team as a mere sophomore...Only UGA quarterback to both rush and pass for 1,500 yards in a career...1,799 rushing yards and 21 rushing TDs both career records for a Bulldog quarterback.

 7. FRAN TARKENTON (1958-60): I personally believe Tarkenton's collegiate career is probably a tad overhyped (without fail, similar rankings have listed him among Georgia's top five QBs); UGA declares him as one of its few first-team All-American QBs, and the lone one ever selected by the AP (although he was actually a second teamer), while his stellar pro tenure aids in making a great Georgia career seem more like extraordinary.  However, there's no denying that he was perhaps the primary reason why the Bulldogs achieved a 16-5 combined mark in 1959-60 after the team won just 35 percent of its games in the previous four seasons (1955-58).

 6. KIRBY MOORE (1965-67): Similarly to Johnson, you probably won't find the quarterback of the 1966 SEC champs listed with Georgia's greatest signal callers...Was remarkably 5-0 vs. AP top-10 foes and 5-1 vs. Auburn and Georgia Tech...At end of career was 7th all time at UGA in passing yards, 8th in rushing, and 6th in punting yardage.  Plus, Moore might be the only UGA quarterback in history in which a renowned poem was written in his honor"To A Great One" by Harold Walker, which included, When the game is nearing the final gun, and we just can't seem to score, we know who will get the job done, you're a winnerKirby Moore!

 5. MATTHEW STAFFORD (2006-08): Stafford might be the most talented quarterback in Georgia history; he's the only Bulldog QB selected first overall in the NFL Draft, and the second of only two (John Rauch the first) chosen in the draft's first round.  Besides all the records Stafford set in just 2½ seasons as Georgia's starting signal caller, maybe the most impressive marks were his win-loss records: 27-7 overall, including 11-4 vs. AP-ranked opponents and 7-3 in games decided by four points or less.

 4. ERIC ZEIER (1991-94):  After quarterbacking Georgia to a combined 19-5 record in 1991 and 1992, Zeier's numbers soared as a junior and senior, but while the team faltered overall.  He passed for a combined 48 touchdowns and nearly 7,000 yards in 1993 and 1994, but the Bulldogs went 11-10-1 and without a bowl (and without an adequate defense); however, I shutter to think how those teams would have fared without Zeier under centereven worse, likely much worse.  In the 78 years of the Heisman Trophy, only THREE times has a UGA quarterback finished in the final voting, TWO of which were Zeier.

 3. AARON MURRAY (2010-13): You've undoubtedly heard about Murray's career record-breaking passing prowess all season, but as I posted fairly recently on my Facebook author/UGA football page, he also finishes his career with the third-most rushing TDs by a Georgia quarterback; his 396 career rushing yards is the most by a Bulldog signal caller since Shockley...35 career wins is third-most in UGA history (behind Greene and Rauch), but 17 losses are the most by a Bulldog quarterback in 60 years (Bratkowski also lost 17)...No SEC championship, but that's due in large part to inadequate defensive play for most of the past four seasons.

 2. DAVID GREENE (2001-04): Ended his career with the 9th-most passing yards in NCAA history (11,528)No. 1 in SECand as the highest rated quarterback in UGA history (138.3)...Above all, 42 career wins as a starting quarterback set all-time NCAA record.  Since Greene's career ended nearly a decade ago, I've personally contended that I would probably prefer no other UGA quarterback to lead an offense 80 yards from the end zone in a game's final minutes.

 1. JOHN RAUCH (1945-48): Rauch ended his career as the NCAA's all-time leading passer, while his 36 career wins would stand as an NCAA record for 30 years (Greene's record 42 stood for five until 2009). ...Only UGA quarterback in history to be selected to more than one NCAA-recognized postseason All-American team (Rauch chosen to four in 1948)...Also rushed for 13 TDs in career, caught three scores, returned a fumble for a touchdown, and his 13 career interceptions (playing defense) currently rank tied for 5th in UGA history.
On a recruiting trip in 1945, and just as Georgia and Coach Butts were switching to the "T" formation, where the quarterback would serve as the offense's primary passer, Rauch was talked out of signing with Tennessee, switched from tailback to quarterback, and promised he'd start under center for the Bulldogs as a true freshman.  Pictured during his first game at UGA, true freshman Rauch leads the Bulldogs to a 49-0 victory over Murray State.  Nearly 70 years later, who would have guessed that "Jarring" John Rauch would remain arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of Georgia football?


Anonymous said...

No Mike Bozo?

Anonymous said...

"Where's Aaron at" Seriously, no one is "at" anywhere. I read your blog religiously and appreciate the great work you do, improving the grammar will make the blog perfect. Thanks and keep up the otherwise outstanding work.

politicallyincorrect said...

Au contraire, mon frere! In this context, the title is perfectly appropriate. He is not talking about Aaron's physical or geographic location. The question is really, Where is Aaron at among Georgias elite qbs? As in, relative to.

Patrick Garbin said...

Thank you, politicallyincorrect. Seriously, Anon 10:06, you must not have read this post that "religiously." The title was taken directly from the question sent to me by the emailer: "Where's Aaron at as far as Georgia's all-time greatest quarterbacks?" Nevertheless, thanks for reading and your kind words regarding the blog. -- Patrick