Jake Fromm is Kirby Smart's kind of quarterback. Ultimately, that might be all that matters
Just so we’re clear: Jake Fromm isn’t a better quarterback than Jacob Eason.
But Fromm is proving to be a better fit for what Kirby Smart wants from his quarterback. And, ultimately, fit will determine who lines up behind center and steers Georgia’s Playoff drive.
In the escalating debate about who should be Georgia’s starting quarterback, it’s critical to remember who recruited Eason and who recruited Fromm. It’s as important to know why.
Eason was Mark Richt’s guy, built straight from the same factory that produced Matthew Stafford. Eason looks the part of a future No. 1 overall draft pick. Big, sturdy, rocket arm.
Fromm was Smart’s guy, built just like all of the quarterbacks Smart watched up close throughout Alabama’s decade of dominance.
Eason remains the better NFL prospect.
Fromm appears to be the better engineer for Smart’s system.
Blame part of this on the circumstances surrounding Eason’s arrival. Georgia had just suffered through a sequence of monotonous game-managers. It didn’t want another.
It wanted excitement. It wanted pizzazz. It wanted 40 passes a game, replete with 60-yard go routes. It wanted 93,000 to watch a spring game. It wanted a big arm to produce bigger numbers.
But the Dawgs didn’t necessarily need a savior.
Yet that’s Eason’s albatross. Every time Eason is on the field, he is the story. It’s not his fault, but it seems every time he drops back, the expectation is that he’ll make a splash play to save the offense.
Fromm has no such burden of expectations. He’s merely running the offense, an offense built around the same principles that has made Alabama so tough for so long.
Everything starts up front, with a punishing run game. The safe passing game is merely the final complement.
The difference in the two quarterbacks showed its hand on the opening snap Saturday.
There’s zero chance Georgia catches Mississippi State’s secondary peeking in the backfield if Eason is behind center. SEC coaches and safeties respect his arm strength too much.
They’ve seen too much evidence. Nobody who witnessed it will forget the 47-yard laser Eason threw to Riley Ridley against Tennessee, the ball exploding out of his hand with such velocity that the deep safety, who had one job, still couldn’t get there in time to prevent six.
That’s exactly what an NFL arm looks like.
That throw is exactly what we think about every time we think about Eason. It’s an impossibly high standard, but that’s the reality his right arm created.
With Fromm? Hand off, make smart decisions, be accurate. More than anything, be poised — which is coachspeak for “don’t screw this thing up trying to be a hero.”
That works, too, when you’re controlling the line, handing off to four talented running backs, making safe throws and relying on a menacing defense to do the rest.
That’s the Alabama formula.
More and more, Smart is bringing that Alabama formula to Athens. And, ultimately, Smart wants his quarterback to embrace it.
That’s not Eason’s game. He’s the clean-up hitter, not the caretaker; you just hope the home runs far outnumber the strikeouts.
The rub is: This Georgia team doesn’t need its quarterback to throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns. Last year’s edition might have, but this team is better in every single way, most dramatically on defense.
The only fourth-quarter deficit Fromm has faced was two points at Notre Dame. And he had more than 10 minutes to erase it. The biggest deficit he’s faced all season is seven points. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if and when Georgia falls behind by 14 in the second half, when the scoreboard dictates gun-slinging.
That’s not necessarily Fromm’s game, but we’ve seen Eason flourish in that scenario.
Fourth-quarter comebacks defined his freshman season. Nobody looks forward to being in that situation, but there was a sense of anticipation and excitement when Eason lined up in the gun, trailing late against Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky. From build to swagger to arm strength, there’s no mistaking the sophomore has a little John Elway in him.
Does Fromm have that in him? We don’t know. We might not ever know.
The key to exposing that potential flaw is: You have to put Georgia in that position first.
And the way Fromm is managing a mistake-free offense and Georgia is playing defense, that’s looking more and more unlikely every week.