For a program playing for its 31st win in three seasons on January 1st, the Georgia Bulldogs coaching staff sure does draw a uniquely ubiquitous degree of criticism.
Todd Grantham, the Dawgs’ defensive coordinator since 2010, has produced mixed results on the field despite a consistently high level of talent. A large sect of Bulldog Nation was disgusted to learn that he would be welcomed back in Athens for the 2014 season.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is not above reproach either, at least not as far as fans are concerned. His play calling is consistently labeled as either too aggressive or too passive. Any drive resulting in anything other than a touchdown is not only a failure in the eyes of Bulldog fans, but also an indictment of Bobo’s deficiencies.
And yet, Bobo has quietly blossomed into one of the best coordinators in the country.
What have you done for me lately?
Last year, as a veteran-laden defense struggled out of the gate, Bobo’s offense came out firing, opening the season with a five-game streak of 40 or more points scored. The Bulldog offense didn’t look back en route to averaging an impressive 37.8 points per game to go with a school record in offensive production (467.6 yards per game).
Bobo was masterful in integrating the already established passing game, led by Aaron Murray, with a newfound ground attack spearheaded by freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. The results in 2012 were staggering.
Unfortunately, in 2013 the injury bug led to seven skill position starters missing significant playing time and, in the process, derailed Bobo’s prolific offensive attack. Or did it?
Surely an offense that lost wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, running back Keith Marshall and quarterback Aaron Murray to torn ACLs would struggle to regain its composure.
Undoubtedly that very offense would take significant steps back and away from its record-setting pace if star running back Todd Gurley and the team’s two leading receivers (Chris Conley and Michael Bennett) also missed playing time with injuries.
A pedestrian playcaller like Mike Bobo would have no chance at resuscitating such a depleted offensive unit.
Au contraire! This year’s Georgia offense actually scored at a higher clip, accounted for more yards per game and racked up more first downs than last year's squad.
|Georgia's Offense in 2012 and 2013|
|Year||Yards Per Game||First Downs Per Game||Points Per Game|
Unfortunately for Bobo’s detractors, this season negates the excuse that has propped up “Fire Bobo” arguments for years. Certainly, Bobo has been blessed with a tremendous amount of talent—a concession that critics willingly make. But, Bobo’s offense didn’t merely succeed on the heels of elite playmakers like Gurley and Murray this year, as critics so often allege. Bobo’s offense found productivity and survival in the form of depth.
With Gurley and Marshall out, Georgia leaned on unheralded freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas. Green was initially slated to play either receiver or cornerback for the Bulldogs while Douglas was expected to contribute as a blocker from the fullback position. The duo combined for 947 yards of offense and seven touchdowns this season.
As receivers went down left and right with injuries, the passing game continued its efficiency with little long-term decline. Eleven players caught touchdown passes, eleven hauled in passes in excess of 30 yards and eight had games of 75 or more receiving yards. The receiving corps under Bobo’s guidance found strength not in stars, but in numbers.
Perhaps the largest contributor to Bobo’s success has been his ability to develop quarterbacks. The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach since 2001, Bobo has coached (then) the nation’s winningest starter at the quarterback position (David Greene), a number one draft selection (Matthew Stafford) and the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leading passer (Aaron Murray).
All three of the aforementioned players were great in their own respective ways, but new starter Hutson Mason may be the greatest testament to Bobo’s acumen in developing passers. Mason, who waited patiently in the wings behind Murray for nearly four full years, has performed masterfully under center in 2013.
This year, Mason matched Murray’s completion percentage (both players connected on 64.8 percent of all attempts) while posting a higher yards-per-attempt figure (9.13 for Mason, 8.86 for Murray) and rivaling Murray’s overall passer rating (Mason is just four points shy).
Georgia’s offense returns a host of weapons in 2014 and the safe assumption is that Bobo’s unit will continue to put out more of the same high-level production.
But those days may be numbered, and not for a reason that many Georgia fans even recognize.
I think we’ve got a great staff, and we want to keep them. But it’s a very competitive league in a lot of areas. There’s the competition on the field, there’s the competition in recruiting and then sometimes there’s competition to hang on to your assistant coaches.
Richt offered that insight shortly after Bobo received a new contract and what Richt called a “deserved” pay increase from $335,000 to $575,000 per season.
Bobo’s value as a coach has not diminished. His ability to coach in-game, develop talent and coach the most important position on the field was on full display in 2013—but he may not be a viable candidate for assistant coaching positions much longer. His next job may be an opportunity as a head coach.
But don’t tell Georgia fans that.