Now that I’ve gotten the morning snark out of the way — a hearty thanks to the usual suspects, by the way — let’s ask the question seriously: what does Jake Fromm’s selection in the fifth round of the NFL draft tell us about the Georgia football program?
First off, it doesn’t tell us much about Kirby Smart’s talent evaluation skills. It’s not as if he thought he was keeping a future first round draft pick when he made choices leading to Eason and Fields leaving the program. This doesn’t sound like a coach operating under any delusions about what he had in Fromm:
Still, Smart said he had an idea Fromm wouldn’t be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“I thought all along he’d be a third or a fourth-round pick, and he lasted to the fifth,” Smart said.
That’s not post hoc ass covering, either, according to Bruce Feldman ($$).
There were some way-too-early mock drafts touting Fromm as a top-10 or top-20 pick, but folks I trust around Georgia had been telling me those projections were laughable given Fromm’s limited arm strength and athleticism.
So, Smart knew Fromm’s limitations and still let two five-star kids with bigger arms (and in Fields’ case, better feet) escape Athens. You know what? I get the gloating from certain quarters…
… even if I don’t agree with how that’s framed. But think about Smart’s decision at the time, not through Saturday’s prism. Jake Fromm finished the 2018 season ranked fifth in passer rating — not in the conference, but nationally. To kick Fromm to the curb after a season like that, no matter how tempting Fields’ physical talents were, would have been extremely questionable.
Much the same could be said about Eason’s departure. Fromm takes over in the opener, leads the team to big wins at Notre Dame, the SECCG and the Rose Bowl, comes within a whisker of winning a natty as a true freshman quarterback and Smart is supposed to jettison that simply because Eason has a bigger arm?
Kirby isn’t coaching to win an NFL combine. He’s trying to win college football games and in his mind, Fromm was the best option to do so. Would I like to have Fields in a Georgia uniform this season? Shit, yeah. But that doesn’t mean I’m ripping Smart for sticking with Fromm last year.
Which is not to say that Smart is entirely blameless in the choices he made before last season. It’s just that the quarterback decision wasn’t what hurt the Dawgs so much as it was Kirby’s emphasis on recruiting, or, more particularly, recruiters. Take it away, Seth Emerson ($$):
This year, as well as after the great 2017 season, Georgia had three offensive players taken in the top 35. The quarterback was the same guy in both season. And yet we all know how much more successful that 2017 offense was that issuing statistical reminders seems unnecessary. (Just in case: The 2017 offense ranked 12th nationally in yards per play, compared to 46th this year.)
That bolsters the argument that it mainly came down to coaching.
Seth “perhaps” that, but I’m not so unsure. Maybe putting the thumb on the scale in favor of South Florida recruiting instead of recognizing the value of a good position coach wasn’t such a hot choice.
That being said, if that’s the worst thing I can throw Smart’s way in the wake of the start of Jake Fromm’s NFL career, this offseason gives me plenty of hope a lesson has been learned. Emerson, again:
The revisionist Fromm vs. Fields debate is not only a tired one but irrelevant at this point. What matters for Georgia is the future, and where the critics have merit is that Georgia’s offense was too antiquated for the times, and where Hurts was drafted is evidence of that.
But the evidence also points to Smart having gotten the message, given the signing of Newman and the hiring of Todd Monken.
It may not be conclusive proof, but I’m willing to see what happens this season before I look to throw Smart under a bus, Fromm or no Fromm.