We’ve tended to focus on the offensive slippage last season as the reason Kirby Smart elected to change offensive coordinators, but what if it was something else that motivated him to move on from James Coley?
Something like this ($$):
Around this time last year, some online draft analysts were touting Georgia’s Jake Fromm as a possible top 10 pick or higher. Now, that doesn’t sound like that’s going to be anywhere near the case. I was skeptical of those projections at the time from what I’d seen and heard. One NFL coach told me in Indy that of the QBs who threw there, he felt Fromm probably hurt himself the most. “He measured short, ran slow (5.01 in the 40) and threw poorly, but he was outstanding in the interview, so that’ll help him some,” the coach said.
Jake Fromm’s passer rating declined from 171.22 in 2018 to 141.15 in 2019. Nationally, that represents a drop from fifth to fiftieth. Sure, he had to deal with significant changes in his receiving corps, but it’s not exactly like he had chopped liver to deal with this year, especially as long as Cager was healthy. And he still had a formidable offensive line protecting him, along with a top running back talent in Swift. At some point, you’ve got to say Fromm’s game declined year over year because of Jake Fromm. Then you’ve got to wonder why, or at least you do when you realize it didn’t happen in a complete vacuum.
Fromm did the job the year before, and, for that matter, led Georgia to a national title game as a true freshman. He wasn’t a mediocre quarterback before the start of the 2019 season, but he did finish as one. And the adjunct to that observation is that while Kirby Smart made a correct decision to stick with Fromm over Fields as his starter, a year later this doesn’t sit so well.
… But a few coaches and folks in the quarterback space say they won’t be shocked if Justin Fields ends up pushing him for that top spot.
Now, this is hardly the consensus. Several coaches and evaluators I talked to this week think Lawrence is far and away the better quarterback prospect. Everyone I spoke to still loves Lawrence, and it’s not like the NFL personnel people have been able to study either extensively at this point. But the feeling I got from some coaches is that people don’t realize just how talented the Ohio State quarterback really is in terms of his arm and athleticism.
I don’t care how justified the original decision was at the time — and, for the record, I think Smart made both the correct and obvious call in that regard — in retrospect, that’s got to sting. If I’m Kirby Smart, I’m asking myself how things got turned upside down as quickly as they did.
It’s probably not a big step to look in Coley’s direction from there, either.