ATHENS -- At the age of 36, Mike Bobo sometimes look grizzled. There is the stubbled beard, the receding hairline and the voice that cracks.
Maybe its the job. Maybe its the five kids. Or it could be all the criticism he has come under at his alma mater, the only place he has ever really known.
He can get a little frustrated at times, said Aaron Murray, who as Georgias quarterback probably sees Bobo more than any other player. But if I had five kids all under the age of (six) and four freshman quarterbacks and no other quarterbacks, Id lose a couple hairs, too. But Coach Bobos a great guy.
He also remains the Bulldogs offensive coordinator, a fact that might have seemed surprising earlier this season. The Bulldogs were 1-4 and many blamed the offense, specifically its play-caller.
Fans needed a piñata, someone to blame, and when head coach Mark Richt wasnt getting it, Bobo was the piñata. At one point, a caller to Richts radio show asked the coach on the air if We can get rid of Coach Bobo.
Richt didnt answer. But after the regular season ended, he had a one-word response when asked if he wanted Bobo to keep calling plays: Yes.
By then, Richt had the stats and production to back up the decision.
Georgia has the SECs fourth-best scoring offense, putting up at least 30 points in the final seven games. The Bulldogs record (6-6) seemed more tied to a struggling defense and the absence of star receiver A.J. Green for the first four games.
During Greens four-game NCAA suspension, the Bulldogs averaged 352.3 yards and 24.3 points per game. After the star receivers return, they averaged 414.5 yards and 39.3 points per game.
Bobos play-calling has also been criticized for not being creative enough, but a couple stats could dispute that:
The Bulldogs had 63 plays (including special teams) of at least 25 yards this season, compared to 43 for their opponents.
Inside the red zone, the Bulldogs ranked 12th in the nation in converting. They got a touchdown 34-of-54 times and a field goal 14 times, with the six empty chances coming on three turnovers, two missed field goal and a failed fourth down attempt.
Bobo was asked this week if, after all the early-season criticism, he felt vindicated.
He offered a slight grunt before answering.
You know, if wed have gotten an SEC championship, I wouldve felt better, he said. But to be honest, I dont read that stuff. You feel it, because you felt it because youve got people saying, Hey hang in there, youre getting tons of (criticism). But the bottom line is I just keep grinding every day, trying to make the position I coach get better every game, and us improve as an offense.
Bobo and his wife Lainie have five children, including four-year-old triplets. But as Murray alluded, the job of being quarterbacks coach may have been an even bigger source of stress.
Once Zach Mettenberger was dismissed from the team after spring practice, the Bulldogs were left with just two scholarship quarterbacks and two more walk-ons. None of them had played a down in college.
But Murray ended up having an outstanding season (24 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and 2,851 passing yards). That came under the tutelage of Bobo, who in his 10 years as Georgias quarterbacks coach has also guided David Greene, D.J. Shockley, Matt Stafford and Joe Cox to big seasons.
Bobos own playing experience as quarterback (when he was team captain in 1996 and 1997) is a big reason for that success, according to Murray.
He talks about it all the time: He made his mistakes when he had opportunities to go out there and make plays, Murray said. So hes not as hard on us, because he knows its gonna happen. Hes been in that position. Hes been through it, hes been harassed, people booing him, hes been through the great times too. Hes been through it all. So its nice to throw it off him and have him be able to relate to us.
Murray also laughs when asked about the play-calling criticism.
I dont know why people complain, Murray said. Were gonna set about six records this year. Were gonna score 30 points in eight straight games. I mean thats all due to play-calling. I dont know how youre gonna complain when were throwing 30 points on the board.. If you go back and look through the games that weve lost, most of its due to our errors: fumbling it, throwing interceptions, us not taking care of the ball.
Tight end Orson Charles, who should be a key part of next years offense, suspects the fans that want the offense opened up will get their wish next year.
When we lost those four straight games, everybody was telling everybody that we have to fire Coach Richt and Bobo and whatnot. And we just stuck together, Charles said. Now that Aaron has a year under his belt, he knows what Aaron can and cant do. Now hell feel comfortable bootlegging him, making him run, throwing the deep ball, (the stuff) that hes proven this year.
Whatever Bobo may be thinking privately, he remained unbowed in his public comments. Yes, he was personally gratified by Murrays development, but he doesnt want the quarterback to be satisfied.
Definitely Im pleased with that, that we got better as the season went along. But still finishing 6-6 is not where we want to be at Georgia, Bobo said. Do I think were a long way off? No, I think were very close to getting where we want to be.
Richt turned over the play-calling to Bobo late in the 2006 season. Since then, according to Georgia historian Patrick Garbin, the Bulldogs offense has actually out-produced the team when Richt was calling plays.
Some fans may still clamor for a change. But theres no sign Bobo is going anywhere.
Im happy hes my coach, Murray said, And Im excited for the next three years to be with him.