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What the national media gets wrong about Jake Fromm and Justin Fields
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields had another strong game for Ohio State this past week. On the season, he’s now accounted for 23 touchdowns to just 1 turnover while leading the Buckeyes to an unbeaten record.
His strong start to the beginning of the season has a number of people once again talking about how things ended at Georgia. Fields’ playing time fluctuated from week to week and like most freshmen, he had his ups and downs. While some games he showed flashes of the player he is now — against Tennessee and UMass — there were also times he struggled — against Auburn and Alabama.
While fellow quarterback Jake Fromm wasn’t perfect last season, it was also clear that Fields wasn’t a better option for the Bulldogs in 2018 than Fromm was. That became crystallized in Fromm’s performances against Florida and Alabama, where he threw for a combined 541 yards and 6 touchdowns in those two games.
Prior to Georgia’s bowl game against Texas, Fields put his name into the transfer portal. While he remained with the team, he didn’t play in the Sugar Bowl and announced his intention to transfer to Ohio State on Jan. 4. Fields was then granted immediate eligibility at Ohio State, which has led us to where we are now.
But now that he’s thriving at Ohio State, it appears that some in the national media want to paint the issue as if Georgia somehow made a choice to allow Fields to leave and play elsewhere as if that wasn’t a decision Fields had to make on his own. Or if the sophomore version of Fields isn’t an improvement over what most everyone saw as a freshman.
USA Today’s Dan Wolken openly wondered why more people weren’t talking about the fact more people weren’t talking about Fields being a better quarterback than Fromm.
I’m kind of surprised we aren’t talking more about the fact that Ohio State has a better quarterback than Georgia, given that Ohio State’s quarterback was at Georgia last year.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) September 29, 2019
Statistically, it’s hard to argue against Wolken. The problem with relying on statistics is that Fromm’s game has never been about putting up massive numbers. Of course Fields is going to put up big numbers in Ryan Day’s offense. If Fromm was in that same type of offense, there’s a pretty good chance his numbers would mirror what Dwayne Haskins did for Ohio State a season ago.
As boring as it might be, Fromm’s excellence shines through in areas that aren’t easy to explain.
“He understands the game of football really well. He handles protections,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Fromm. “He handles a lot of what the defense does and gives to us and takes from us, and he does a nice job of managing that. We put a lot on his shoulders. he’s picked up where he’s left off. He’s very highly efficient. He makes good decisions with the ball. He protects the ball and puts us in the right play a lot.”
This isn’t to say that Fields doesn’t do well in those areas of the quarterback position. It’s just to highlight why Fromm was able to maintain the starting quarterback job a season ago and continue to shine as a junior.
Like Fields, Fromm has also made improvements to his game. It’s just that they don’t scream as loudly as Fields’ statistics do.
Fromm added that he feels he’s improved in throwing on the run. This showed up in the Notre Dame game, as Fromm was flushed from the pocket on a third down and hit Tyler Simmons with a perfectly placed pass in the back of the end zone. The problem is that the pass was dropped.
Even with the dropped touchdown, Fromm still had a stellar second half against Notre Dame, completing 9 of his 14 passing attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown. He was everything Georgia needed him to be in that half against a top-10 team in Notre Dame and delivered a 23-17 win over the Fighting Irish.
Fromm also displayed some of his mobility on another third down later in the game as he scrambled for 9 yards and took a massive hit while trying to pick a key first down. Unfortunately, he needed 10 yards.
While Fields might have superior raw numbers, Fromm does have Fields beat in completion percentage and yards per attempts so far this season. And while Fromm only has 6 touchdown passes so far, he’s also yet to make a turnover.
Smart added another area where he feels Fromm has improved. And once again, it’s not in an area that can be explained by passing touchdowns or rushing yards.
“His leadership is the biggest difference,” Smart said. “It’s more tangible to me. I see him affecting other people. I can see him going and talking and communicating to young wideouts, to helping get guys lined up, challenging guys to play with more energy and effort and toughness, and he’s not afraid to confront and demand. Not that he ever was, but he’s doing it more often now.”
Fields has clearly gotten better this season. That tends to happen when guys go from their freshmen to sophomores. Fromm did that a season ago for Georgia. And Fromm has once again gotten better as a college junior. Fields will likely do the same next year as he continues to get even more comfortable in Day’s offense.
Both players are great quarterbacks. Both Fields and Fromm are succeeding at the highest level. It was going to be impossible for both players to do that at Georgia, given there can really only be one quarterback on the field at a time. Fields made a choice that’s best for him, while Georgia made a choice to stick with and believe in a quarterback that has guided them to a number of big wins over the years.
As far as regretting how the situation played out, that relies on a number of hypotheticals. Does Fromm declare for the draft after this season? Does Fields lead Ohio State to a national championship? Does Georgia struggle to find a replacement for Fromm in the event that he declares for the 2020 NFL Draft? Will Georgia’s defense and special teams be able to hold up against Alabama this time?
The idea that Georgia regrets Fields’ transferring at this point in time is foolish. Of course, Georgia would love to have both Fields and Fromm from a depth perspective. But both quarterbacks are like Mark Wahlberg’s character in “The Other Guys.” They’re peacocks, and you got to let them fly.
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm discusses his improvements
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— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 30, 2019
Starting my week like my son does his bye week pic.twitter.com/qd7k5YzTML
— lee fromm (@dylantylerjake) September 30, 2019
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