Georgia football: 1 bad game from Jake Fromm now makes QB dance with Justin Fields dangerous
For six games, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm didn’t give us any reason to doubt him. During the Bulldogs’ first six wins, all by 14 points or more, he threw the ball downfield well, checked down when he had to, and coolly and calmly made good decisions. It was all good.
And then LSU happened.
During the Bulldogs’ 36-16 thumping last Saturday in Baton Rouge, Fromm had his worst career day. He missed wide-open receivers, threw behind others in the end zone and whiffed on some easy throws on third down. He also held on to the ball far too long on several occasions. It was an un-Fromm-like performance. This was, after all, a guy who came into the game completing 73 percent of his passes. He was under 50 percent Saturday (16-for-34). That’s not good.
But there were also some drops, and some poor — or completely wrong — route-running. In other words, this wasn’t all on Fromm. It was a total team effort in stinking up the place.
“All the struggles weren’t his. He made some third-down throws I thought were really good,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Fromm. “A couple times he ends up getting sacked, and he’s got to make a decision to get rid of the ball, but we don’t run the right route on one of them.
“He’s looking for a route, and they don’t run that route, there’s a miscommunication.”
LSU did a great job of putting pressure on Fromm and schemed well in doing so, making sure to take away his usually reliable check-down options.
“There’s a lot of pressures they run that are hard to pick up, and I was very concerned with that coming into the game,” Smart said. “There were some times where he was looking for the check-down and it wasn’t there, (and) two times we had a miscommunication on a route, where’s he looking for a certain route and it breaks down. He’s either got to get rid of it, or he’s got to run it and take off.
“Some of those, you’ve got to escape and get rid of the ball. I didn’t think it was the protection as much as it was making decisions quicker, getting rid of the ball quicker. And at the end of the day, don’t be in 3rd-and-long.”
Fromm’s struggles in Death Valley turned the spotlight on the quarterback situation into a bright white-hot flame ball. For the first half of the season, there was a clear delineation of responsibilities at the position. Fromm, the sophomore who led Georgia to the National Championship Game last year, was the starter and top-recruit Justin Fields backed him up, getting a taste of game action whenever the situation allowed it.
It was Fromm’s game until it was under control, and then Fields got some work in. There was a clear No. 1 and a clear No. 2, and as long as Fromm kept getting it done every weekend, there was no controversy. This was not Alabama. This was not Clemson.
And then, again, LSU happened.
The Twitter trolls were howling for Fields to play every time a Fromm pass went awry. But Smart didn’t budge, and stuck with Fromm. He could care less about the “couch quarterbacks.” Me too.
“It’s easy to sit back and second guess and say this and that, but at the end of the day we have to make good decisions, and we’ve got to play the guy who gives us the best chance to win,” Smart said. “And we’ll continue to do that, both of those guys are going to continue to get better. They are good football players.”
The problem with going to Fields when you’re behind is that Fromm is the better passer and Fields is more of a dual-threat guy who can hurt you with his legs. We still don’t know if Fields could play for long stretches and throw the ball downfield accurately.
And there’s no time right now to find that out. Not now.
With the loss, suddenly the Bulldogs are in a fight for their lives to win the SEC East. After this week’s bye, next up for Georgia is the annual rumble with Florida in Jacksonville and then a road trip to Kentucky. All three teams have one SEC loss, so everything is still up for grabs. It’s no time to find out if Fields can do it.
Or is it?
It would take a lot of guts, but with a bye week here, it would be interesting to see if Georgia wanted to hand the reins to Fields from the start of the Florida game, and see what would happen. The surprise factor might be worth something. And if it doesn’t work, Fromm is there to come in. Maybe there’d be a Tua-type bump like last January.
But that’s really playing with fire.
As bad as Georgia played last Saturday in all phases of the game, there’s no guarantee that wins will come easily against Florida and Kentucky. They should both be dogfights.
Fields will get his shot, but now’s not the time. Fromm still gives Georgia the best chance to win.
“Everything is out there for (Fields). He still comes in and gets reps at the quarterback position,” Smart said. “We have to give ourselves the best opportunity, and those are the decisions we have to make as an offensive coordinator and head coach.”
And the best decision, still, is to go with Fromm. But the leash has suddenly gotten short.