What Does Aaron Murray's Return Mean for the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs?

Let's try this picture with a crystal football a year from now, shall we? - Scott Cunningham

Earlier this evening, Aaron Murray announced on Twitter that he intends to return for his senior season at Georgia. What does this mean for the Bulldogs for the 2013 college football season?

Earlier today, I was concerned that the Capital One Bowl win might not have been decisive enough to earn the Georgia Bulldogs a lofty preseason ranking for 2013. It turns out I was worried for no good reason: Aaron Murray tweeted earlier this evening that he is returning for his senior season in the Classic City. What does this mean for the Red and Black?

Historically and numerically, it means that, barring injury, Murray will leave Athens as the most statistically accomplished passer ever to pass through Athens, and likely ever to have played in the Southeastern Conference. As The984 demonstrated with prescient timing, Murray is on track to shatter every mark he does not already own, and the only SEC gunslinger ever to have thrown for 3,000+ yards in each of three straight seasons now has the chance to establish himself as the standard by which all future Georgia quarterbacks will be judged. As someone who was in the stands for the bulk of the games played by Eric Zeier, David Greene, and Matthew Stafford, I sure didn’t think four years ago that I would see their numbers eclipsed so convincingly so quickly.

There is, however, a reason it is commonly said that statistics are for losers: Eric Zeier threw for 11,153 yards while going 2-2 against the Vanderbilt Commodores. At the end of the day, the only numerical measure by which quarterbacks are judged starts with “dub” and ends with “yuhs.” Aaron Murray certainly is no slouch in that regard---the ‘Dawgs have won 21 of his last 22 regular-season games---but he continues to be criticized for his performance in big games.

To some extent, this reputation is not undeserved. In particular, his three-year totals against the Red and Black’s two most important division rivals, the Florida Gators and the South Carolina Gamecocks, have been less than impressive. However, in the course of his junior campaign, Murray faced three pass defenses currently ranked in the top 15 nationally (No. 2 Alabama, No. 5 Nebraska, and No. 14 Vanderbilt); against the Crimson Tide, the Cornhuskers, and the Commodores, he went 54 for 90 (60.0%) for 942 yards (314.0 per game), eight touchdowns, and three interceptions. Is there room for improvement? Certainly, there is. Are Murray’s numbers the product of a soft schedule? Not hardly.

Given his improvement---Murray has thrown 19 touchdowns and three picks since returning home from Jacksonville---I believe it is noteworthy what his announcement tweet did, and did not, say. Given 140 characters within which to explain his decision, Murray declined to make reference to improving his draft stock or enjoying another year of the college lifestyle, though no one would fault him for including such considerations in his calculations.

What he wrote, though, was that he wanted to “help lead this team to a championship.” Having fallen five yards short of an SEC title and a shot at a national crown, Murray wants to return to finish what he started, and I am confident not only that he can, but that he will.

A month ago, it felt like something special was ending, and, certainly, at that moment, something had, but that’s one of the funny things about life, and about the capacity of sports to illustrate through exaggeration certain quirky realities of our earthly existence; moments have a tendency to give way to subsequent moments, and opportunities lost often are replaced by other options and second chances. After a 10-2 regular season and an SEC Championship Game blowout in his sophomore year, followed by an 11-1 regular season and an SEC Championship Game heartbreaker in his junior campaign, Murray’s next step in the progression could not appear more clear.

Our team, our time, no regrets? I’m not going to lie to you; there have been a few regrets here and there. Thanks to Aaron Murray, though, our time is not yet finished, our team will return in 2013 at full strength, and the possibility for erasing past regrets remains alive and well in the Classic City.

God bless Aaron Murray, a damn good ‘Dawg. Is it football season yet?

Go ‘Dawgs!

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