By the numbers: Criticism of Jake Fromm is probably overstated
Georgia football fans can get their statistical fix each week with By the Numbers — a stats-based look at how UGA coach Kirby Smart is doing in his attempt to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC and continue the program’s pursuit of a national championship. This week’s edition of By the Numbers looks at Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm.
Jake Fromm is a good quarterback that had a bad game vs. LSU.
SEC fans — Georgia fans included — don’t always process bad games easily, and the disappointment lingering from the loss to the Tigers last Saturday has probably led to an overreaction about Fromm. There’s no doubt Fromm needs to be better than he was in Baton Rouge, but there’s plenty about the evaluation of Georgia’s current starting quarterback that’s apparently anything but clear.
For instance, an anecdote that’s been tossed around some this week by UGA fans is a suggestion from SB Nation’s Spencer Hall, who wrote in September that the Bulldogs would be in danger of losing a game if Fromm threw 20 or more passes. The suggestion from Hall is that Fromm is just a so-called “game manager,” and Georgia is better off when it doesn’t ask him to do too much.
The reality is Fromm is 8-3 for his career when attempting more than 20 passes — including the SEC Championship, where he connected on 16-22 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and the Rose Bowl, where he completed 20 of his 29 attempts for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia’s recipe for success has undoubtedly been running the ball, but it’s unfair to say Fromm can’t pass UGA to big victories. He played a pivotal role in two of the biggest games the Bulldogs have won this century.
However, that was last year, and sometimes fans and media members can have short memories.
The thought that’s currently stuck in the heads of many is what happened against LSU. Fromm completed just 47.1 percent of his 34 attempts last week, and the fact that Fromm is still second in the SEC in completion percentage, third in yards per attempt and fourth in touchdowns hasn’t exactly quieted some of the calls to see more of Fromm’s backup, the freshman Justin Fields.
This is understandable.
After all, Fields is a dazzling prospect. Plus, the proliferation of recent freshman quarterbacks around the south — including Tua Tagovailoa, who led Alabama in the second half of last year’s national championship game, Trevor Lawrence, who Clemson has penned its hopes on this season, not to mention what Fromm did for UGA last season — only increases the impatience to see more of Fields.
Yet while there’s nothing wrong with being eager to see Fields, it could prove to be a mistake to cast off Fromm too quickly — especially if Fromm improves what’s plagued him most.
The Twitter account, CFB Film Room recently shared some data on Fromm that shows the area in which Fromm has been truly deficient is on deep throws. Fromm’s adjusted completion percentage (which accounts for throw aways and drops) is just 32 percent this season, a 16-point drop from the same types of throws in 2017.
The main reason for the difference appears to be the absence of last year’s top UGA receiver, Javon Wims — who now plays for the Chicago Bears. Wims led the Bulldogs with 45 catches for 720 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He also caught 11 of Fromm’s 20+ yard throws last season. No other player in Fromm’s career has caught more than five 20+ yard passes from him.
In other words, Fromm desperately misses Wims — especially on deep throws.
The inability to connect with receivers on the kinds of passes Wims typically hauled in was probably Fromm’s biggest problem vs. LSU. Fromm misfired twice to Mecole Hardman, and apparently failed to notice a wide-open Terry Godwin on another likely touchdown.
These are crucial mistakes for a quarterback on a team that fashions itself as a Playoff contender, and if those blunders continue UGA probably would be wise to play Fields more.
However, there’s still reasons for optimism that Fromm will turn things around — especially if this season turns out to be like last year.
Fromm’s chemistry with Wims wasn’t something that developed overnight. It evolved over time. Wims only had two touchdowns through seven games in 2017, but caught five touchdowns over his final seven games.
Coincidentally, UGA’s next game will be its eighth of the season. That’s the moment a year ago Wims started becoming Fromm’s top target. If a similar chemistry emerges between Fromm and another receiver over the second-half of this season Fromm could still prove to be the right signal caller for the Bulldogs.
If it doesn’t, then the cries for Fields will become even louder.