This is the best story I’ve seen on Georgia’s quarterback battles over the last two seasons. In particular, 2018 sounds like a frustrating experience for several.
In private, though, those closest to Jake could tell he wasn’t entirely thrilled with the arrangement. He felt that leaving the game intermittently messed with his rhythm, and at a certain point, he thought he had played well enough to end the competition. “He was definitely frustrated at times,” says Woerner, Fromm’s fishing buddy, who’s a tight end on the team. “He felt like he was doing all he could, and Justin would still get reps. [Jake] is a competitor. He wants to be The Guy.”
… With Fields pushing him, Fromm improved across the board as a sophomore, throwing for 2,761 yards, 30 touchdowns and a 67.3% completion rate. But Smart continued rotating in Fields all the way up to the SEC championship game, a rematch against Alabama. The stakes were high—win, and Georgia would make the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive season—and Fromm played a great game, throwing for 301 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But on fourth-and-11 from midfield with 3:11 to go in a 28–28 game, Smart subbed in Fields, who had taken three snaps all day. Emerson Fromm compares it to benching a hot three-point shooter. “Would you pull Steph Curry out?” Emerson asks. “He’s just hit four threes in a row, and you pull him out with three minutes left to go? I just think…. Hey, coaches get paid big bucks to figure that stuff out. It’s just, I’ve never seen a two-quarterback system work.”
Lined up in punt formation, Georgia snapped to Fields on what appeared to be a designed run, and Alabama swallowed it up immediately. On the next possession the Tide scored the winning touchdown.
In the aftermath, Fields and his father reportedly had multiple meetings with Smart. “Justin was definitely frustrated,” the coach says. “He wanted to play. He was the eager freshman, which is probably the same way Jake would’ve been with [Eason], if he hadn’t been playing.”
I give Kirby some credit for how he managed the situation. It’s gonna be inevitable when you recruit highly rated quarterbacks in successive years that there will be tension over playing time, but it doesn’t appear to have bled over into the team’s chemistry in any serious way.
Still, I bet Smart doesn’t mind taking a break from that particular balancing act this season.