Can Aaron Murray Go Down as Georgia's Greatest Signal Caller?
After this season, though, we all could be calling Aaron Murray the best quarterback to ever play football at the University of Georgia.
If you want to go by sheer talent, that honor could easily go to Matthew Stafford, who just signed a hefty contract with the Detroit Lions. Stafford never made it to the SEC title game as Georgia's starter, and he might forever be remembered for his 'chuck-and-prayer' interceptions and collapse after his team fell from the No. 1 ranking to a loss to Georgia Tech in 2008.
David Greene is the next name to come to mind. Greene started an insurance company after his career as a left-handed backup quarterback in the NFL didn't tickle his fancy. Greene will be best remembered for being the winningest quarterback in college football history before Colt McCoy broke that record.
Greene's greatest accomplishment doesn't include a national championship, despite the fact Georgia fans were sure he would lead them to the promised land after he splashed on to the scene as a freshman.
Georgia's only SEC title with Greene behind center was a 30-3 victory over Arkansas—yes, Arkansas—in the 2002 SEC Championship. Alabama was ineligible for the contest because of probation. Greene's other attempt at a title came a year later when the Bulldogs got thumped by Nick Saban's LSU squad, 34-13.
The only Georgia quarterback to legitimately stand out in an SEC Championship game victory was D.J. Shockley, who had a great season—but just one season—as the team's starter in 2005. Georgia beat LSU by a similar tune, 34-14.
Buck Belue led some great teams, sure. But the era was different. In Georgia's 1980 championship season, Belue's statistics were good enough to get him a second-string position with the Kentucky Wildcats.
Blue completed just 49 percent of his passes on 156 attempts, tossing 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Again, Georgia won the national title with those numbers. That's probably thanks to some guy named Herschel Walker, but I digress.
Finally, the only guy who really ever made a splash in the NFL in the modern era was Fran Tarkenton. He was truly a great. We could throw Quincy Carter into that conversation too, but he undoubtedly made a splash for different reasons.
Eric Zeier and Mike Bobo were prolific passers, sure, but that's all they were. Their teams never did much and Murray has already clobbered their statistical feats.
So, where does Aaron Murray stand among this class? The answer is simple: from a statistical standpoint, he's on track to completely obliterate any passing record a former quarterback at Georgia ever boasted.
Murray is the school's all-time touchdown tossing leader by a long shot. Heading into his senior season, Murray has thrown 95 touchdowns.
In four years, David Greene only threw 72.
As pointed out by a feature on Murray at SaturdayDownSouth, Murray only needs 19 touchdown passes to be the SEC's all-time touchdown king.
He should pass Tim Tebow for most yards gained in a career and he will also need just 627 yards to have more passing yards than any SEC quarterback ever. That record should blow up before September rolls over.
So, if a healthy Murray can likely shatter every SEC passing record imaginable, what's keeping him from discussion of being an all-time great?
He needs to win the big one. That's right.
Again, however, is anyone really that impressed with David Greene's 2002 SEC Championship performance? It can easily be argued that Murray's showing in last year's heartbreaking 32-28 loss to the dynasty that is Alabama was significantly more impressive than anything Greene pulled off at that level.
Greene could kill it in a bowl game, but so did Murray. Last year's 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl saw Murray throw five touchdown passes against the number-one ranked passing defense in the entire country.
Yes, please read that one more time.
The only Georgia quarterback who can leverage Murray is Belue, who's the only quarterback from the modern era who has won a national championship.
If Murray has a campaign this year that's anywhere similar to what he did last season, he will be in position to win an SEC Championship in a time where the conference has been viewed as the pinnacle of American sports.
Had Murray's last-second pass, intended for Malcolm Mitchell but unfortunately caught by Chris Conley, been caught in the end zone we'd already be discussing Murray as a Georgia legend.
Yes, there might even be Georgia fans who call him too short. After all, it appeared a few more inches could have prevented that fateful tipped-pass.
There might even be Georgia fans who call him a choke-artist. After all, the Bulldogs held a 21-10 lead in the second half of that game. Murray's interception at the end of the first-half that should have been a deep touchdown to Chris Conley expose some lost points as well.
But, a few throws and inches—five yards to be exact—were the difference between some fans being sour and lining up for worship.
It's very likely that, by the time this season ends, Murray will register as the best quarterback to ever play at the University of Georgia.
It might just take a trophy or two for fans to digest that reality.
Mike Foster is a Featured Columnist for B/R and a local sportswriter in Marietta, Ga., in northwest Atlanta. Follow Mike on Twitter!
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