Sports writer David Lee, the staff's professor, is a brilliant mind when it comes to breaking down baseball in a mathematical manner. He'll be glad to entertain you explaining player performance based on stats like WAR and xFIP. But while baseball stats can explain the greatness of a player, football is a different beast.
How do you determine the greatness of a quarterback? Do you base it on stats alone? Do you go with touchdowns? Or passing yardage? Or average gain per completion? Fourth-quarter comebacks?
Herschel Walker is, hands down, the greatest Georgia running back ever. While Walker owns almost every key rushing record for the Bulldogs, he's not among the school's top five in career average gain per rush (see answers below). Does this knock him down a notch on the running back greatness scale? Not at all. Which brings us to Bulldogs senior QB Aaron Murray.
Murray will own almost every key career QB stat in school history when he departs after this season. He's thrown for 10,424 yards (David Greene owns the SEC record with 11,528), with 716 completions (Greene, 849) and 95 touchdowns (school record). Murray also is on pace to finish with the school's career completion percentage mark as well as the passing efficiency rating. Does this make him the school's best-ever quarterback? Maybe, maybe not.
Against ranked opponents (ranked at the time UGA played them), Murray is 4-10. The Bulldogs' biggest victory in the Murray reign came against No. 3 Florida last year, but he threw for 150 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Murray had a chance to send Georgia to the BCS title game last season, but he failed to deliver with Georgia knocking on the door in the waning moments against No. 2 Alabama.
Then last week, Murray turned the ball over twice and threw no touchdown passes in a three-point road loss to then-No. 8 Clemson.
So where does Murray currently rank among all-time UGA QBs? You have to consider wins, especially against rivals and ranked teams, when talking about the great ones. David Greene and John Rauch are arguably the two best quarterbacks Georgia's ever had when you combine stats and victories. Rauch led Georgia to an undefeated season in 1946, along with two SEC titles. He earned SEC Player of the Year honors in 1948 and became the school's first QB to earn All-American honors. Rauch, who went 5-2 against ranked teams, finished with a then-NCAA record 4,044 passing yards.
While Greene wasn't perfect, he did go 12-8 against ranked teams (three of those losses came his freshman year). He will always be remembered for engineering the late drive at No. 6 Tennessee which culminated in the Hobnail Boot in 2001. The following year, he threw a fourth-down touchdown pass at Auburn to Michael Johnson with 1:25 remaining, a play that sent Georgia to its first SEC Championship game, a blowout win over Arkansas. And in his senior year, Greene threw two second-half TD passes in a comeback win at South Carolina.
Then you have Fran Tarkenton, who went 2-2 against ranked teams in 1959 and 1960, but the two wins were huge ones. In 1959, Tarkenton tossed a 13-yard pass to Bill Herron with 30 seconds left to lift UGA to a 14-13 win over No. 8 Auburn for its first SEC title in 11 years. Then, the Bulldogs knocked off No. 18 Missouri in the Orange Bowl. In 1960, Tarkenton was named AP All-American after leading the SEC in passing yardage.
So where does that leave Aaron Murray on the list? Consider this: he has more passing yardage than Buck Belue, who won a national title and two SEC championships with plenty of help from Walker and a stout Bulldog defense. But Belue also threw two key passes in UGA history -- a fourth-down, 42-yard pass to Amp Arnold late in the game to knock off Georgia Tech in 1978 and the famous pass to Lindsay Scott to shock Florida in 1980.
Does Murray rate somewhere along the lines of Eric Zeier and Matt Stafford, guys who threw for a ton of yards but left with no league titles? Is he the second coming of Zeke Bratkowski, the Georgia signal caller who led the nation in passing in 1952 and twice earned All-American honors? Bratkowski went 0-10 against ranked foes.
D.J. Shockley started just one season, but he led the Bulldogs to the 2005 SEC Championship. Mike Bobo posted three memorable wins, including the miracle on the Plains in 1996, the four-overtime victory over No. 20 Auburn. Kirby Moore tossed the initial pass on the Pat Hodgson flea flicker play to Bob Taylor that led to an 18-17 win over No. 5 Alabama in 1965. Later that season, Preston Ridlehuber fired a 10-yard touchdown pass to Hodgson late in the game to upend No. 7 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Even tight end Richard Appleby is remembered for one pass play, a girder-bending, end-around, 80-yard bomb to Gene Washington to defeat No. 11 Florida, 10-7, in 1975.
Murray's legacy is still up for debate, which makes Saturday's game against No. 6 South Carolina a crucial one for him. He's gone 10-2 against rivals Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech and Tennessee with a pair of Eastern Division titles (if you count them). On the flip side, he's yet to record his "Larry Munson" moment or prove he can win a big game. And Murray can't go 0-4 against the Gamecocks and still be considered the best UGA quarterback, can he?
Maybe he'll bounce back from the Clemson and play brilliantly against South Carolina. If he does, he'll have additional opportunities to continue to shine in games against No. 9 LSU and No. 12 Florida later this season. If Murray is going to be considered the greatest Bulldog QB ever, he has to deliver the rest of this season. And he absolutely has to play well against the Jadeveon Clowney-led Gamecocks. His legacy is depending on it.
(Trivia answer: UGA's career average gain per rush leaders -- 1. Charley Trippi (6.42), 2. Glynn Harrison (6.37), 3. Keith Henderson (6.04), 4. Garrison Hearst (5.95), 5. Tim Worley (5.80) AND Herschel Walker (5.29).