ATHENS — Do the Buffalo Bills believe in former Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm enough to release Matt Barkley and make Fromm the backup?
That’s one of the big questions coming out of Orchard Park, N.Y., where the suddenly resurgent Buffalo NFL franchise held training camp last year and plays its home games.
Some have suggested the Bills need a more proven, high-profile backup QB now that they are once again legit AFC Championship contenders on the heels of last season’s 15-4 (13-3 regular season) mark.
ESPN author Marcel Louis-Jacques took a deep dive into the franchise’s backup quarterback scenario, noting how Barkley has complete 53 of 97 passes for 788 yards with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions since 2018, making one start in that time.
The backup QB issue surfaced because Barkley is a free agent, but also, because of the unique set of circumstances Fromm has dealt with in the role of “emergency” quarterback last season.
Unlike previous years, where Fromm would have been thrown into the mix and share huddles and meeting rooms, the former SEC Championship quarterback was held separate from the team on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the club needing to ensure a non-contacted player at the position.
Fromm, 35-7 as the Bulldogs QB with an SEC title, three SEC East Division crowns and wins in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, took the humbling role in stride, per all accounts.
Bills franchise quarterback Josh Allen was complimentary of Fromm in the ESPN.com story.
“It’s not an easy ask, to put a guy who’s played his entire career and just kind of say, ‘Go over there and stay away from everybody,'” Allen told ESPN.com.
“He’s handled it with a lot of pride. He takes pride in his work, and it’s good to see a guy like that go in there and do his job. He’s been a pleasure to be around, he’s grown a lot since he first got here, and he’s been awesome in the quarterback room.”
Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane also provided glowing commentary on Fromm.
“Jake Fromm had the most un-normal year a player could ever have, to have to come in here and be the COVID quarantine quarterback,” Beane told ESPN.com. “I thought he handled it greatly. In his exit meeting we just praised him for staying true. He would literally be back there hearing the call in his helmet, and while Josh [Allen] or Barkley are going back [in the pocket], he’s going back just like he’s making the throw from 20 yards back. He stays after and throws with the practice squad.
“Really tough year for him, but … it will help him going into next offseason. He’ll be excited to be able to sit in the quarterback room within six or seven feet of the other guys.”
Beane’s comments would seem to indicate Fromm will be returning to Buffalo, where his career got off to a tenuous start after an inappropriate text message from years past surfaced, leading to Fromm issuing a team apology.
Fromm earned a spot on the Buffalo roster as a fifth-round NFL draft pick, Beane indicated, for much the same reason he was Georgia’s quarterback all three seasons.
“I think one of those things Jake did well was in 11-on-11,” Beane told Syracuse.com at the time. “He did move the ball for us when he had some opportunities. He got better (as camp progressed).”
Georgia fans will always appreciate Fromm for his dominance in rivalry games: 3-0 against Florida, 3-0 against Tennessee and 3-1 against Auburn, in addition to becoming the first full-time QB in SEC history to lead his team to three East Division titles.
But there will always be the “what-if” factor, as the Bulldogs appeared to have a strong enough team in 2020 to make a run for the SEC title had Fromm stuck around for his senior season.
For now, UGA fans will wait to see if Fromm’s decision to turn pro after his junior season pays off with a second season in Buffalo in a more conventional backup role.
Measuring Fromm among UGA greats
Pass efficiency rating, career
1. Aaron Murray, 158.61.
2. Jake Fromm 156.13
5. David Greene 138.30
8. Eric Zeier 137.08
9. Matthew Stafford 133.30
Most TD passes career
1. Aaron Murray 121
2. Jake Fromm 78
3. David Greene 72
4. Eric Zeier 67
5. Matthew Stafford 51
Passing yards career
1. Aaron Murray 13,166 (SEC record)
2. David Greene 11,528
3. Eric Zeier 11,153
4. Jake Fromm 8,224
5. Matthew Stafford 7,731
Lowest interception percentage career
1. Jake Fromm 1.83 percent
2. David Greene 2.22 percent
3. Eric Zeier 2.64 percent
4. Aaron Murray 2.77 percent