Aaron Murray’s Career: Overrated, All-time Great, or just a Bully?

On Saturday I missed a rare home game and opted to stay at home and gorge myself with burgers, bratwurst, chili, buffalo chicken dip and any other food I could stuff in my mouth.  Before you judge me for not going to the game take a moment to feel bad for what my stomach must be going through as I detox.  Thank you for your consideration.

Friend of the Dude, Casey, and his main squeeze came over to watch the game and as we watched Aaron Murray spend the majority of the first quarter on his back I mentioned that I’ve always been very pro-Murray but that the Florida game was truly unsettling.  Murray of course went on to hit 75% of his passes for nearly 400 yards while tossing 4 TDs and not throwing a single pass to the other team.

I don’t like seeing the Murr-man down like this. H/T

And that resonated with me.  Not because it was a uniquely superb performance, but because it was the kind of performance that Murray puts up often.  Probably more often than he has a disastrous game against a good team.  On Saturday Murray’s passing efficiency rating (see below, non-football-nerds) went over 200 for the third time this season.

 [ { (8.4 * yards) + (330 * touchdowns) – (200 * interceptions) + (100 * completions) } / attempts ]

 If that still doesn’t mean anything to you after seeing the formula, let me put it into context for you.  Collin Klein is considered by many to be the leader in the Heisman Trophy race; his QB Rating is 174.4.  The last “pure passer” to win the Heisman Trophy was probably Sam Bradford in 2008 (I say “probably” because some argue that Cam Newton and RGIII were pure passers, but I’d label them as dual-threat QBs even though they were also elite passers) and his passer rating that year was 180.9.  In a more local context, the highest passing efficiency ever recorded by a Georgia Bulldog for a season was Mike Bobo (go figure) with 155.8 in 1997; Stafford never topped 153 and Greene never surpassed 148.

Good Games

So even a single game with a rating over 200 is extremely impressive.  Murray has done it repeatedly over his career:

  • 250.9 against Georgia Tech as a freshman in 2010
  • 236.9 against New Mexico State as a sophomore in 2011
  • 255.6 against Auburn as a sophomore in 2011
  • 249.1 against FAU this season
  • 208.1 against Kentucky this season
  • 237.3 against Ole Miss this season

That is six great games against six mediocre teams.  How mediocre?  Maybe not mediocre at all.  Maybe just bad.  Those six teams have combined to go 26-41 during the season in which Murray demoralized them.

So what’s the tangible impact of Murray’s exploitation of the weak?  Through Murray’s 36 career starts he has posted the following statistical line:

610 of 996 passing for 8,646 yards, 80 TDs, 29 INTs and a rating of 154.85.

So his average game looks like this:

16.9 of 27.6 passing for 240.2 yards, 2.22 TDs and .8 INTs.

In those six previously mentioned “Bully” games his average stat line is:

18.7 of 24.2 passing for 314.3 yards, 3.7 TDs and .2 INTs.

Interestingly enough, those games make up 16.67% of Murray’s career starts but account for 18.4% of his completions, 21.8% of his yards, 27.5% of his TD passes and only 3.5% of his interceptions.  Perhaps most telling of all, those 18.4% of his career completions have come on just 14.8% of his career attempts.  In other words, when Murray is accurate with the football – even just from a completions standpoint – good things happen.  Need further proof?  In these six games he is averaging over 13 yards per attempt.

The Average Games

When these six games are removed from Murray’s career numbers, the impact can be seen even more visibly.  In Murray’s 30 other starts his stat line reads like this (on average):

16.6 of 28.3 passing for 225.3 yards, 1.9 TDs and .9 INTs.

That stat line represents a passer rating 141.16 – a 13.69 point drop.  How important is that drop?  Consider this:  Of Georgia’s 12 losses with Murray under center, only three have come with Murray performing at (or above) an efficiency level matching his career average (South Carolina in 2011 when he posted a 176.0 efficiency, Auburn in 2010 when he posted a 170.8 efficiency, Colorado in 2010 when he posted a 157.3 efficiency).  An underperforming version of Aaron Murray has been present in 75% of Georgia’s losses since his freshmanyear.

So what about those bad games?  How bad are they?

If we use the data above and remove Murray’s six best performances and arbitrarily label them as “outliers” we get to the aforementioned 141.16 efficiency rating.  Georgia is 5-6 in games in which Murray performs with an efficiency rating below 141.16.  Even more telling is Georgia’s record in those games against teams that are actually good.  With the lone exception of this year’s Florida Gator squad, Georgia has not defeated a single 8+ win team when Murray performs at a sub-141 level.  Even more telling, with the same exception (Florida) and standard (sub-141 rating) Georgia has not defeated a single SEC team that posted more than three conference wins during the same season.

Furthermore, when Georgia loses Murray only completes 53.8% of his passes and averages 1.67 TD passes and 1.17 INTs.  His passer rating in 12 losses is 126.90.

If you want to simplify things: Murray is 13-3 when he doesn’t throw an interception with his last interception-free loss occurring on November 13, 2010 against eventual National Champion Auburn.  Murray is also 15-3 as a starter when throwing for two or more touchdowns than interceptions.  When that doesn’t happen he is 9-9.

So is Aaron Murray good?

Assuming Murray stays healthy and the Dawgs do in fact play a game in the Dome for the SEC Championship Game and a Bowl game his end of the year stat line is projecting to look something like this:

254 of 390 passing for 3,808 yards, 32 TDs and 11 Ints.

As of right now that would project Murray to rank 3rd in the nation in yards per attempts, 14th in TDs and 6th in QB Rating.  So yeah he’s pretty darn good.

The seemingly oft-embattled Murray is on pace for a career high in completion percentage (64.9% bests his 2010 mark of 61.1%), yards (about 650 more than his 2011 mark), yards per attempt (9.8 is healthily above his 2010 mark of 8.9) and passing efficiency (168.9).

Murray would then hold the following Single-Season Passing Records at UGA:

  • Passing Yards in a Season (2012)
  • Passing TDs in a Season (2011)
  • Single Season Passing Efficiency (2012)

And he would be just at Bobo’s single-season completion percentage record.

Furthermore, these numbers would give him a career line of:

701 of 1135 for 10,006 yards, 91 TDs and 33 INTs.

At UGA he would rank:

  • Third in career attempts
  • Third in career completions
  • Third in passing yardage
  • First in career completion percentage
  • First in career TDs
  • First in career passing efficiency
  • First in career yards per attempt

Still not convinced?  If Murray stayed for a fourth year and simply mirrored (with no improvement) his (projected through end of this year) three year averages his four year line would read:

935 of 1513 for 13,341 yards, 121 TDs and 44 INTs and an Efficiency of 156.4.

He would have the Georgia Career Record for:

  • Pass Attempts (by 73)
  • Completions (by 86)
  • Yards (by 1,813)
  • Completion Percentage (by 2%)
  • Efficiency Rating (by almost 14 points)
  • Gain per Attempt (.5 yards)
  • Touchdown Passes (by 49)

Perhaps surprisingly he would have the third lowest interceptions per attempt average of any QB in Georgia history.

These statistics would make him the SEC’s All-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.  He would rank 9th in the nation in career passing yards and would be tied for fifth in career TD passes.

Statistics may be for loses, but when you read into them as often as I do, it’s hard not to be impressed by what Aaron Murray has done over the last two and a half years, and it’s even harder not to wonder where he’ll cap out if he sticks around for a fourth season.

That’s all I got/


About dudeyoucrazy

College Football Writer

Posted on November 7, 2012, in Blog, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Wasnt sure if you were going to get there, but glad you did. People… if Murray doesn’t get hurt next year (by the way Murray is tuff as nails and never misses playing time despite being treated very rough over the years by some big strong men) and he finishes his senior season, he will hold by a good margin the two biggest passing records in the SEC – TDs and Yards. Let that sink in, career leader in passing TDs and Yards in the sec, the best conference in the country where the best defense is played by far.

    Has his performance against good teams left alot to be desired? Of course it has, but so many of our losses in big games over these past two years have been because the other team was simply better. Better on defense, better on special teams, better coached and better execution. Murray has contributed to the losses in the big games, but they have been by in large team losses. I think the UCF bowl game Murray’s freshman year was one game where Murray playing better would have been the difference. If we had lost to UF this year, Murray’s play could have been pointed to as the sole reason. Murray had nothing to do with us losing to USC this year, it was not his fault the receivers dropped sure TD passes against LSU in SEC champ game last year, it was not his fault our O-line got destroyed by Boise and his freshman year it certainly wasn’t his fault that Washaun Ealy and Caleb King blatantly fumbled away two games in the closing minutes when we were driving for the go ahead score. Another loss you could peg on Murray would be the 2011 South Carolina game at home, but again his fumble wasnt the only one. Isaih fumbled and we let a defensive end score on a fake punt. That ain Murray’s fault.

  2. Hey Dude. AM is a good QB when playing average teams. He cannot handle the pressure when playing better than average teams or the best teams. He will never be a great QB because he lead others when under pressure.

  3. Great articles. Keep them coming.

  4. I was listening to 680 and they were discussing this same story, thanks for putting to paper w/ a great deal of statistical research.

    AM to me is a “good” QB. His stats, record, etc. are not in questions. I even venture to say he has some pretty good heart along the way. I’d love to see HIM win one big game along the way. Even in the UF game this year we all know the story. I feel like he’s got the tools and the situtation just needs to line up for him on a big time stage. The Dome this year would be nice? TBD.

  5. Don’t most QBs have a worst record against better teams than they do against average teams? Isn’t that what makes the better teams better? How can a statement like that be questioned? Oh well….

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