“Bennett, for better or worse, is the guy Georgia plans on riding to the finish line.”

I’m not as mortally offended by Dan Wolken as many are, but this is not one of his better opinion pieces.

Without more information, we have to assume that Smart finally had the option to use Daniels — one of the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites — after being out more than a month.

He chose Stetson Bennett IV.

And suddenly, a season of routine, boring dominance has a juicy subplot for Georgia. Is Smart — for the second time in his tenure — boxing himself into playing an inferior quarterback as he pursues a national title?

Maybe Georgia is destined to win the whole thing this year regardless of Smart’s quarterback choice. Maybe there’s a legitimate football reason why Georgia’s coaching staff feels more comfortable with Bennett, a former walk-on whose speed and movement can counteract Georgia’s sometimes shaky offensive line play.

But make no mistake: If Georgia’s plan was to build its offense around Daniels with the College Football Playoff in mind, that process would have started Saturday in a 34-7 win over the Gators. Instead, Smart made a loud statement by doing nothing.

As we like to say around here, “Without more information” is doing a shit ton of heavy lifting there.  Wolken is making all kinds of assumptions that, for all we know, lack a complete basis in reality.

And he punctures his own argument with this:

It’s hard to argue with that logic based on the scoreboard. Since Daniels’ injury, Georgia has beaten Arkansas by 37, Auburn by 24, Kentucky by 17 (it was 23 until a touchdown in the final few seconds) and now Florida by 27. The Bulldogs aren’t likely to play a truly competitive game until the SEC championship where the likely opponent will be Alabama.

There’s an entire month left to get Daniels prepped.  How much time does he need?  I don’t know and neither does Wolken.  I’m guessing Smart and Monken do, though.

As shaky as that argument is, the piece really goes off the rails with, well, you-know-what.

And now Smart is going to oblige them by not playing the best quarterback on his roster once he’s finally healthy? In the bigger picture, it makes very little sense. For Smart, though, it’s almost becoming a habit.

Oddly, Smart didn’t get a ton of criticism for the situation that developed in 2018 when he played Jake Fromm while Justin Fields mostly sat on the bench. Though it was clear that Fields was the more gifted long-term prospect and came to Georgia as one of the most celebrated recruits in program history, Fromm had taken the Bulldogs to the brink of the national title the year before and never seemed in danger of being dislodged as the incumbent.

Georgia tried to use Fields in special packages, but it felt like he had been pigeonholed as a runner and there was no real commitment from Smart to see what he could do. The end result was predictable: Fromm kept winning most of the games but played underwhelming football, while Fields transferred to Ohio State and became one of the best college quarterbacks of the last decade.

You can spin or rationalize Smart’s handling of that situation any number of ways, but the bottom line is that he made a comfortable decision that did not ultimately give his program the best chance of winning a national championship.

It’s fair to wonder if the same fault lines are developing again in Smart’s thought process.

Ah.  When in doubt, play the Fields-in-hindsight card.  A reminder:  Jake Fromm finished the 2018 season with the fifth-highest passer rating in the country.  If that’s underwhelming, I’ll take underwhelming all day long and twice on Saturday.

Apparently, Smart boxed himself in by not playing the backup in 2018 and he’s about to box himself in by playing the backup in 2021.

75 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

75 responses to ““Bennett, for better or worse, is the guy Georgia plans on riding to the finish line.”

  1. Derek

    Stupid is what stupid does…

    Wolken is only right if we lose in December or January and a healthy JT is sitting on the sideline while it happens.

    I’m prepared to see how it plays out and I’m doubtful that JT remains a spectator for very much longer.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Munsoning

      Agree. As soon as JT is healthy and rust-free, he’s QB1. Citing Fields vs. Fromm is lazy, which is the default mode of a sportswriter of Wolken’s ilk.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. 2 things here:

    1.) The Fields thing is going to be a thing until Kirby wins a NC. It just is.
    2.) From the LSU game to the Sugar Bowl, Fromm was absolutely lights out in 2018. You can say that corresponded to really getting Swift and Holyfield cooking so he could work against defenses geared to stop the run, but regardless of why, he was really, really good during that stretch.

    Liked by 6 people

    • originaluglydawg

      Thing number three.
      3) Wolken is stupid.
      SB played because he has the legs to escape Grantham’s constant pass pressure and blitzes. And it worked. And he’s healthy enough to take a hit. There was no reason to risk setting JT back, health wise.
      If Wolken can’t figure out something this obvious, he should start writing about the arts or pet shows.

      Liked by 7 people

  3. Geezus

    He gets paid to write and he knows that topic will pull clicks. Personally, I would love to see JT playing, but as long as we’re winning, I don’t really give a damn.

    If nothing else, the heavy lean toward a mobile QB should provide some confidence to Vandergriff as he’s a mobile QB too (and our QB room is about to get crowded).

    Liked by 5 people

  4. CB

    It would be nice to get to a point in Kirby’s tenure where nobody feels the need to criticize and/or defend his choice of qb. It’s a running theme in Athens seemingly year after year. Doesn’t seem to be the case anywhere else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Biggen

      Well when you recruit the #1 QB in the nation and don’t start him, that leads to questions. Then when he finally transfers out, it sets in motion an avalanche of misses (Mathis), transfers (Newman), and injuries (Daniels).

      I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just stating the facts.

      Liked by 3 people

      • CB

        Full agreement. The questions are merited imo. If Daniels really is healthy I feel like turning him loose would end the discussion… at least for this season.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Biggen

    The Fields vs Fromm debate is done and I’m over it.

    JTD plays against Mizzou if he is finally healthy enough. I don’t see any reason to keep him out unless there is a disciplinary or injury issue still ongoing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • gastr1

      Christ, yes. “Oddly, Smart didn’t get a ton of criticism for the situation that developed in 2018 when he played Jake Fromm while Justin Fields mostly sat on the bench”…Oddly, really?

      Give me a fucking break.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Geezus

      Agree. I think this more akin to Fromm – Eason. Eason went down with an injury and lost the starting job. The difference is that Eason was struggling with accuracy and reading the defenses, and JTD has shown none of those issues.

      Liked by 7 people

      • Harold Miller

        And of course Eason then transferred to Washington and won the Heisman and a National Championship just like Fields. Oops.

        Liked by 3 people

        • Geezus

          I don’t really understand your point, if Heisman’s and National Championships are the litmus, then that would negate Fields (and most other) GA QB’s.

          My point was the similarity was with the injury situation and the difference is that JTD doesn’t have any of the flaws that Eason did.

          Like

  6. rigger92

    Did he even watch the game? Our O line wasn’t exactly good in pass pro, Stet mitigated that. Daniels may be 100% physically but I take Kirby at his word when he says that JT isn’t quite game ready only having practice reps for a few days.

    I get that some of this crap is Kirby’s own doing with the goings on inside the program being state secrets, but it’s also his way of protecting his players and they come first. For draft likely kids there is nothing good about having them playing hurt or detailing what hurts them. They shouldn’t be on the field unless they can play their absolute best, it’s a lot of money and careers start there.

    The Fields card? Well, that’s on Chaney. Our passing attack in ‘18 was archaic and Fromm handled it well. As good as that team was, the offense was all about Swift and Chaney simply did not work in a dynamic passing attack. I don’t blame Fields for leaving at all. The Coley experiment simply made this Fields thing flame on as confirmation that Georgia was not building a spread attack.

    Liked by 3 people

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Wolken is totally wrong about the plays that were called for Fields. He ran our typical dropback passer variety, with only a couple designed runs. The fact that Foelds was prone to tucking it in shouldn’t be confused with the type of offense Chaney ran.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. jdawg108

    As I understand it, Daniels’ injury isn’t what most people think. It’s an overuse injury caused by improper mechanics and overcompensating for another injury.

    These aren’t easy to heal, and can get aggravated. When they are aggravated, it’s back today square one. So it’s not an “he’s healthy” or “he’s not healthy”. (I lost six months of training to something similar with an Achilles).

    Kirby, fortunately, has the option to sit him until he’s absolutely needed. If we were down 10 in the third, I believe Kirby would have played him. So a few more weeks could lead to Daniels being 100% and no chance of reinjury.

    The lat is a very large muscle and used in every throw, it takes time to heal. We’re fortunate we have Stetson.

    Daniels on the sideline didn’t look like someone who had been benched. He was cheering for Stetson and involved.

    Liked by 9 people

  8. As I mentioned on Saturday, SBIV is a DGD, but if JT is healthy enough to run the full offense, #18 should be the starter on Saturday.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Migraine Boy

    Once again, it’s revisionist history to say CKS was criticized for not starting Fields over Fromm.

    My (and a lot of others’) criticism was that he put Fields in when games were out of reach to hand off the ball and run clock.

    That lack of development (most likely in order to stymie any QB controversy) is completely fair to criticize.

    Liked by 4 people

    • godawgs1701

      “That lack of development (most likely in order to stymie any QB controversy) is completely fair to criticize.”

      Is your theory really that Kirby Smart and his staff avoided putting Justin Fields into the game while outcomes were still in doubt because they didn’t want him to be better than Jake Fromm and thus necessitate him using the better tool in his tool belt to win games? So you’re saying that you have seen Kirby Smart operating in Athens over the past five and a half seasons and you think that there is anything more important to him than winning? This, while he has shipped former prized recruits (and presumably kids he likes and has relationships with) all across the rest of the country so he could replace them with better players? I find that hard to believe to the point of being ridiculous.

      Like

  10. akascuba

    It’s click bait designed get a reaction. In a sports media world that grows ever more crowded the only way to stand out is say stupid stuff. It easier when your a Vandy grad who only knows losing during football season.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As I’ve said before, it’s kinda nice being a fan and being able to relax while being totally confident that CKS and Monken have more info (and football intelligence) than I do, and I can trust that whatever they come up with (regarding ANY situation) is probably better than anything I (or anyone writer or commenter on the internet) can come up with.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. beatarmy92

    Silken doesn’t “offend” me. He’s merely a troll with a byline who occasionally writes something interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Previously Paul

    I tend to agree that if Daniel’s was 100% healthy we should have seen him in the game Saturday. Assuming you want him prepared for the post season, he needs some meaningful snaps against good competition. So, either he isn’t fully healthy or something else is going on. I tend to think he’s not ready. But when you watch Nolan Smith talking about the confidence he has in Stetson you also have to take into account that Bennett appears to have the locker room. That’s important too. Might they be waiting for JT to inspire that sort of belief in the team? I don’t know. But it gives us something to debate over the next few weeks.

    Like

  14. fisheriesdawg

    The thing about the national media narrative was that they weren’t actually seeing Fields play at Georgia. They’re assuming the Fields they saw at Ohio State was just sitting on the bench at Georgia. Yet when he went in, more often than not, he just reinforced Kirby’s decision to start Fromm. He wasn’t ready. Had he stayed in 2019, he probably would have been ready, and he would have been a shot in the arm for Georgia when Fromm started struggling. But he found a loophole and decided to take a guaranteed starting spot over a competition for one. So here we are.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Migraine Boy

      Again, I post his stat line in his one year at UGA:

      27/39 69.2% 328 yds 8.4 av 4td 0 int
      42 rushes for 266 yds and 4td

      But “not ready”

      Like

      • godawgs1701

        He did a great job running the package of plays that the coaches felt he had mastery of while mostly facing Georgia’s lesser defensive opponents that year. You could see a lot of potential there. I guess we’ll never know if he had full mastery of the playbook and could have done that against the better teams we faced – the coaches didn’t seem to think that he did. And I also didn’t think that he did.

        Like

        • Migraine Boy

          Yet somehow tOSU found a way to get him “ready” in 7 months

          Like

          • godawgs1701

            Look, if you watched him play that year and thought that we should have benched Jake Fromm immediately for him then I will never convince you otherwise. Ohio State’s offense is a lot different than what Georgia was trying to do offensively back then and even still today, though I would love to see what Todd Monken could have done with Justin Fields’ talents. Ohio State generates some big time stats with their offense and the way they run things seems to create a lot of easier throws for the quarterback. None of this is intended as anything disrespectful towards Fields, either, I think he’s a hell of a player and I fully believe that whether it was Chaney, Monken, or even our dear old departed friend James Coley, Fields would have eventually won the job at Georgia and been a great player for us. All I know is that I wanted an SEC title and a national title in 2018. I believe the quarterback who was better prepared to run the offense was indeed the one we played, and I hate that we lost Fields because of that. Jake Fromm had us within a few heartbreaking plays of beating Alabama both seasons. Could Justin Fields have done more? I don’t know … I do know that he won as many national championships in college as Fromm did, though.

            Liked by 5 people

          • jcdawg83

            Kirby didn’t have the option of letting him face slow B1G defenses like tOSU did. That really helped tOSU get him “ready” in 7 months.

            Fields was the 2nd best qb on the team in Athens. He knew it, Kirby knew it, the fans knew it, everyone with eyes knew it. Fromm was so far ahead of him in ability to read defenses and go through progressions Fields could barely see him. Fields daddy saw this too and decided his meal ticket needed to quit and go play somewhere where he could out athlete the opposing defenses and not have to actually learn the skills big time college qbs need. From what I heard coming out of Athens, Justin did not really want to leave Athens but Daddy had been running the show since middle school and Daddy got his lip poked out because; for the first time in Justin’s organized football playing life, the coach would not do what Daddy Fields demanded.

            Fields should have stayed and redshirted in ’19, he could have played in 4 games and saved that year and he would have been the starter last season. Monken would have made him into a legit superstar.

            Liked by 2 people

            • ericstrattonrushchairmandamngladtomeetyou

              Fields made a mistake by leaving. Leaving was fueled by wanting to get to the NFL ASAP. If he had stayed Fields would have been the starter at Georgia last season and would be starting now.

              Like

            • Migraine Boy

              It seems Fields made the correct decision, wouldn’t you say?

              You change your offense for a talent like him, not try to cram him into your antiquated system

              Like

          • PTC DAWG

            Ready for what? To do exactly what Fromm did his Freshman year?

            Like

      • Bat City Dawg

        Most of that was against UMass. but okay

        Like

  15. godawgs1701

    “Is Smart — for the second time in his tenure — boxing himself into playing an inferior quarterback as he pursues a national title?”

    I will bang the table on this until my wrists break – in the Year of Our Lord 2018, Justin Fields was NOT a superior quarterback to Jake Fromm. I saw them both play and while I know Fields has been the better athlete his entire life and always will be, he simply did not know the offense well enough to be the main focus of the offense. I’m sorry it hurt his feelings. I’m sorry that he didn’t want to tough it out and win the job, which I believe he would have the next year. I know it sucks that we lost him and didn’t get the opportunity to win the national titles that he did with Ohio State… oh, wait. File not found. Anyway, Justin Fields as a true freshman was not a better quarterback or the better option for our football team and the media can put a damn sock in that.

    Liked by 6 people

  16. mddawg

    It’s all part of Kirby’s master plan. He’s going to wait until halftime of the SEC CG to play Daniels, just to throw Saban off. Beware the backup QB.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Texas Dawg

    From Kirby’s comment that Daniels had thrown w/o much pain before FL, that tells me he was not 100%. The way that Grantham loves to blitz we needed a more mobile QB (Stetson). Unless Stetson got hurt (or just down right sucked) there was no need to put Daniels in and risk injury just as he is about to get healthy. He have a cupcake run of Missouri, Charleston Southern and North Avenue Trade School to get him ready. Stetson may get the start against TN because of the whole “Kneeland” thing given Daniel’s previous injury. I fully expect Daniels to start (or play significant time) in all the remaining games.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. nightnthebox

    Personally, I think we pay Kirby Smart a lot of money to run the program and I defer to him when it comes to the best way to win football games. If he says Stetson is our guy, then Stetson is our guy. Full stop.
    And I’m not gonna lie: I’m vicariously living my childhood playing-for-Them-Dawgs football fantasy thru him Stetson Bennett. So I like seeing him out there.
    That said, if he was having problems getting the ball over the line like last year, or weak-arming it into trouble, I’d be the first to call for the hook. But the kid is playing some damn fine football and I think that is all it comes down to.
    Could JT do better? Maybe.
    But is Stetson doing well? Absolutely.
    And being able to extend plays was critical against florida.

    As for Fromm/Fields: Fromm practices extremely well. How do you bench the kid that practices better?

    Honestly, you’re there watching practice all week: One kid is making all the reads, making all the throws.
    The other kid is making some of the reads and some of the throws.
    You know he’s great but the first kid is checking all the boxes and everyone see it.
    How do you look your players in the eye and say “you earn your snaps by what you do in practice… except at QB.”
    To Hell with that. Not how you run a program.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jcdawg83

      When Fields was at Georgia he struggled with reading defenses and his default setting was to run when the primary receiver was not open. That did not work at all against legit SEC defenses. Once he went to tOSU and he was one of the fastest, most athletic players on the field playing against slow B1G defenses in an offense designed to use his athletic ability, his high school way of playing qb worked well. When he had to face another SEC defense in the championship game, he looked like the qb he was at Georgia again.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. junkyardawg41

    From the post game Presser with CKS Saturday Night.
    “JT has not really been able to practice guys. He took a few reps last week and then he took more reps this week. When you go three weeks without taking reps, I think it’s really hard to do. I know you want to keep asking questions, I get it guys.”
    If I read between the lines, JT was still limited during the bye week and was limited during the installation of the game plan. I don’t think he is healthy enough to play. Last year we saw JT after the UF game because I think SBIV was beat up and we had to start JT. He was still gimpy but was forced into action.
    I have ZERO doubts that when JT is healthy enough to go, he is able to go. Until then, it is SBIVs team.

    Like

    • jcdawg83

      I’m wondering why no one is asking the question “is JT Daniels sturdy enough to play big time football?”. I hope he recovers completely and rewrites the record books on the way to a NC but, so far, he has been sort of a “Glass Joe” during his college career. Because of various injuries he has only played in something like 7 games in three full seasons of college football.

      We are very fortunate to have Stetson on this team. If he had not come back last season and this season we would be having to rely on Beck or Van der Griff, neither of which is anywhere near ready to play in the SEC.

      Like

  20. Tony BarnFart

    I guess my only question is, does JT come back next year ? He has to, right ?!

    Like

  21. I let message boards convince me that JTD and Bennett would split snaps against UF, but once I realized it was the Mailman all the way I stepped back and realized it made perfect sense. Kirby knew this was our last real test of the regular season and deferred to continuity and a “sure thing” with Bennett vs. taking the chance that JTD is rusty or gets hit against a very aggressive defensive front getting used to game speed. Totally makes sense to grab the W, and now we can let JTD get plenty of snaps against Mizzou. If that does not happen, then I feel it’s safe to say Kirby’s ride or die is Bennett. I personally think JTD opens up more of the field and has better overall command of presnap reads and better arm, so I would like to see him take back over, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t like Bennett’s mobility as well.

    Like

    • jcdawg83

      Bennett’s mobility is what tilts the scales in his favor. I agree with everything you say about JT’s arm and throwing ability but he has not shown any mobility and if he is playing, the other team is going to bring pressure the whole game. Our OL has not been dominant this season and Stetson’s mobility has saved some plays.

      Liked by 1 person

      • originaluglydawg

        That may not be what everyone wants to hear, but I think you’re right on the money. Esp that last sentence.

        Like

  22. originaluglydawg

    I hope the header didn’t send anyone to the emergency room this morning.

    Like

  23. moe pritchett

    Stetson is the quarterback until he isn’t.

    Stetson is doing the job.

    Stop bitching about free steak.

    The back up quarterback, whoever that is and for whatever reason is the most popular guy on campus.

    Fields? Piss on him.

    Go Dawgs.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Derek

    Here’s the thing:

    If we can run the ball and stop the run vs. bama it doesn’t matter who plays qb.

    If however Bama can have some sense of run/pass balance AND put us in 3rd and distance, our offense will be constipated. 13 simply cannot consistently move the chains and score tds unless we’re owning the LOS.

    What JT gives us is two huge advantages:

    1) we have a shot at converting our share of 3rd and distance AND
    2) if we’re “explosive” in the passing game and get an early lead we can make alabama be one dimensional and tee off on Young.

    The type of game we can lose is the one we saw for about 27 minutes on Saturday. Florida was balanced enough to keep us from killing 15 and we were getting in 3rd and distance and punting.

    So again, playing 13 isn’t a “we have no chance” scenario. He just really narrows our path vs. talented teams.

    I’d like to see us use the next 4 weeks as a second “camp” and try to find an offensive identity that can post big numbers early. Not because we can’t win a low scoring defensive battle but because I think we can avoid it.

    Thanks Stet for helping us get here. If shit goes wrong, maybe you can save the day, but lets get 18 out there asap and go win some trophies.

    Like

    • jcdawg83

      You must have watched a different game Saturday. We took the opening kickoff and drove the field only to see an oddball grounding call make a short field goal try a long one and a miss. Florida didn’t exactly shut us down. We punted a total of 2 times in the whole game, we weren’t going three and out over and over again. Bennett had 161 passing yards, only 33 less than both UF qbs combined and 1 more td pass than both of them combined. The two ints were unfortunate but not devastating in any way. Both were ill advised throws but our defense is good enough that we can overcome those sort of things.

      Your advantages for JT assume he is on target and completions are happening. The Peach Bowl showed that is not always the case. He had several cringe worthy throws that only the poor catching ability of the defender stopped from being ints. Also, getting any yards with his feet is out of the question, when he is pressured and the pressure is closing in, the only place JT is going is down. Bennett is a legitimate running threat and while he’s not going to go for 100 yards a game, defenses have to account for him. Florida had to commit a linebacker or safety to spy on Bennett and that is one less db covering in the secondary. JT definitely has the better arm but, right now, that is the only thing he has over Bennett. The biggest thing Bennett currently has over JT is the intangible that is “having the locker room”. The rest of the team seems to love him and that is worth quite a lot. I don’t think they dislike JT in any way but unless Bennett is really struggling it is hard to make a change when the team is winning and winning by comfortable margins.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Derek

        I watched the game where our starting qb went:

        10-19, 161 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT

        Find a National Championship qb with a similar line in the season he won the title and get back with me.

        4 of 9 on 3rd down isn’t great.

        We were 1 of 3 on 3rd and distance conversions in the first half.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. 69Dawg

    I gave up reading all the replies, so here is my two cents. Kirby is going to play the QB that gives us the best chance to beat the opponent we are facing at the time. He had just seen UF get killed by LSU running the ball. SB4 is a dual threat QB so he would be the best to face a UF team like that. If we face another team that has great run stoppers but lousy pass rushers then JT is the man. Lets say we were still 3-0 Saturday and the D hadn’t gotten three turnovers, I personally think we would have seen JT in the second half. Now we have Mizzou, UT, Charlotte and GT to let him get some rust off. I also believe JT will be back next year. Carson Beck will hit the TR portal and VanG will be next up. Gunner will have to sit and be patient depending on VanG’s performance. I’m not sure if Stetson still has any eligibility left after this year but maybe he wants a PHD, the NFL doesn’t appreciate short QB’s much.

    Like

    • Migraine Boy

      Just gotta be honest – If JT can’t get back in this season, I’m writing him off for next year. Sounds harsh, and I love the kid, but it’s just the truth

      Like

  26. Kirby and Monken know way more about football than I do, but it is damn hard to feel comfortable if they stick with Bennett the rest of the season.

    If they win a natty, then all good. If they lose with JT on the sidelines, man it is going to hurt something fierce.

    It is eventually going to get really hard to recruit QBs if we constantly leave the better guy on the bench.

    Like

  27. Wondering if Wolken would meet me @OSU to take pictures of the NC Trophy (since that’s the standard he’s carping about) that Fields brought home for OSU? We can also go to Tuscaloosa and get pictures of the one that Tua brought home (after Jalon transferred out) as the undisputed starter.

    However we could go to LSU and get picks of a NC trophy that a former OSU QB brought home to Baton Rouge (but don’t hear much about Ryan Days QB decisions 🤔)

    Like