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Precious Time/The Under Appreciation of Jake Fromm

NCAA Football: Georgia at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

While most of my family and friends were sitting inside TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville last Saturday afternoon, I was at an outdoor industry trade show in Denver. I knew that this was going to be the case for months, and I tried to convince myself that it was going to be okay if I missed the game. I told myself a ton of lies in order to believe I might not miss watching the game as badly as I knew I probably would. Like all lies, they turned out to be false.

As the first three quarters went by, I kept up with the game by occasionally glancing at my phone during appointments. I tried to act calm, cool and professional while my heart pounded in my chest, and my foot tapped rapidly under the table. Not watching the game turned out to be far more anxiety provoking than watching the game. Luckily, I got a break. My 4:00 appointment cancelled, and I had the next hour free.

I ran back to my hotel room and flipped on my TV as the Gators scored to make it 16-10. I hooted and hollered alone when Cager caught what would prove to be the winning touchdown on a play where he was all by himself. What a route that was— absolutely beautiful. Mostly, I paced back and forth as the final minutes unfolded. I couldn’t help but give into my inner-Munson and urge the clock to tick faster. Unfortunately time only moves at one pace, and Florida methodically crept down the field. Over and over, 4th downs came where Georgia could have ended the game. Over and over, Florida converted. All of a sudden it was 24-17, and I thought about how Georgia of a thing it would be to lose a season defining rivalry game that it had physically and statistically dominated from the start. Despite all of that, one first down would do it, and Florida hadn’t held Georgia to a three-and-out all day.

When the delay of game happened on first down I swallowed hard. It got lost in all of the analysis after the game, but James Coley calling a screen on 1st-and-15 to get the offense back on schedule was a brilliant move. The throw was short enough to be a de facto handoff, ensuring Florida would burn a timeout, but it got the ball in just enough space to get eight important yards. I had some confidence again. Yet one run play into a stacked box later, the television read 3rd-and-7. I feared we would play things safe by running the ball, killing another 40 seconds of clock and punting back to Florida. A lot of things could have gone wrong from there, including the punt itself. Fortunately, Georgia has Jake Fromm on their team, and Jake Fromm is one hell of a quarterback.

With blitzers so close to his feet that he couldn’t step into his pass, Jake Fromm coolly flicked his wrist, throwing from an arm angle that looked awkward. The mechanics of the pass made me immediately think interception. You just can’t throw a ball like that. You especially can’t on third down and ballgame to go in the biggest moment of your season. But Georgia has Jake Fromm, and Jake Fromm floated a perfect ball towards the far hash. It floated safely over the head of the defender, and landed in the hands of an in stride Eli Wolf for a first-down. Game over, Dawgs on top.

All the anxiety left as I watched Fromm and Kirby Smart embrace. Kirby Smart is fiery, but he’s usually collected, or at least calculated, immediately after a game. This was different. Kirby grabbed Fromm by the back of the neck, and pressed his forehead into his quarterback’s. We hadn’t seen an outward display of affection like this from Smart in his Georgia tenure. For a moment I couldn’t help but think they looked like a father and son...

Jake Fromm is a damn good dawg. When Kirby Smart became the head coach at Georgia on December 6, 2015 the first scholarship offer he made was to Fromm. With all that has happened in the nearly four years since, and all of the stories on Chubb & Michel, Carter & Bellamy, Eason & Fields, Roquan, the offensive line and many others, it can be easy to forget who the cornerstone of Georgia’s rise to the top of College Football has been— Jake Fromm.

When he came into his first game I thought our season was lost, but he ended up being the steady hand that would lead the Dawgs to victory against a very game Appalachian State team in the 2017 season opener. He had a calm about him from the very start, and the game seemed to happen slowly for Fromm. It reminded me of David Greene. When he went into South Bend and pulled out a win in his first start, we thought he might be special. Things went wrong in that game, but he weathered the storm. Despite the victory, as has always been the case with Jake Fromm, certain factions focused much more on Jake’s mistakes. A few months later, I watched him dice up Auburn during the second half in the Georgia Dome. We cheered inside the Mercedes-Benz dome as a freshman quarterback delivered Georgia their first conference title in a dozen years. A month after that, I watched him do the same to Oklahoma, calmly converting a fourth down on the game-tying drive as If it was 2nd-and-3 against Austin Peay in September. He did everything he could have to beat Alabama a week after that. Jacob Eason, the man once thought to be the savior of Georgia Football, transferred.

Then Jake Fromm spent an entire offseason listening to Georgia fans question his job security. A large faction favored incoming freshman Justin Fields, the man some people thought would be the savior of Georgia Football. Whenever Fromm struggled in the slightest, if even for a drive or a play, a certain segment clamored for Fields, his considerable physical gifts too tantalizing to ignore. Fromm never complained or showed any level of frustration. Jake Fromm is a worker. So, Jake Fromm kept working to keep his job. When the clamoring for Fields grew its strongest, after last year’s disaster at LSU, Jake Fromm kept on working. The week of the 2018 Florida game, some speculated that Georgia might make a quarterback change. Fromm had his best game of the year, beating Florida with his arm on third down after third down. Fields didn’t play a down. Kirby Smart knows the old rule, and he danced with the one who brought him.

This season started out with Fromm and the offense playing well, but every week Georgia fans compared Fromm’s stats to those of Fields, now the starter at Ohio State. We wondered if something in him was broken after the disastrous loss to South Carolina. We talked about how he couldn’t throw a wet ball after the Kentucky game. We debated about whether or not he could be an effective enough passer to beat a good Florida team in Jacksonville. We wondered if Fromm could handle the pressure of the moment. We wondered if Fromm would handle the pressure a strong Florida defense would apply. He went 20/30 for 279 yards, with a passer rating of 166.8 and a QBR of 96.3. Perhaps most importantly, he took zero sacks with no interceptions.

I say all that to ask this... After the last two and a half seasons, Why in the hell would anyone wonder about Jake Fromm under pressure?

Think back on that Appalachian State game, when Fromm came into a game that was tied, taking over a sputtering offense. Jake Fromm has been under pressure since the word go. Yes, Georgia lost heartbreakers to Alabama the last two seasons, but are those losses on Fromm? No. Those losses happened because the play calling got conservative, and the defense lost large leads.

I will be the first to admit that at one point I joined in with those eager to see the talents of Justin Fields on display. Then the 2018 Florida game happened, and I started to appreciate what we have in Jake Fromm. Are there more talented quarterbacks out there? Sure, but that doesn’t make them better than Fromm.

Many in the media, and on this site, have spent the season comparing Jake Fromm’s stats to Justin Fields. I suppose this is natural to a degree. Kirby Smart made a decision, and folks want to hold him accountable for it. However, Fromm runs an offense based on ball control and winning the line of scrimmage. Fields runs a spread. Fromm has played some great defenses this year. Fields has played Wisconsin. I could go on. Even with all of those variables in mind, it might still be fair to say that Justin Fields is having a better season than Jake Fromm. After all, the Buckeyes are #1 in the most recent poll.

I wouldn’t trade Jake Fromm for Fields or anyone else. It’s not because Jake Fromm makes winning plays, and gets his offense into the right situations. It’s not even because he’s a coach on the field. It’s because Jake Fromm has stood in the pocket and delivered on third down in Jacksonville with the game on the line. He’s done it other places, too. When the crowd is bearing down, and the lights are at their brightest, Jake Fromm delivers. You can’t teach someone to be clutch, and it’s the one thing that the vast majority of college quarterbacks are not.

Most fan bases would be beyond giddy to have a Jake Fromm. They would talk about the growing legend of the kid from a small town in Central Georgia. A story that started on a baseball diamond before he was even a teenager, and continued when Fromm decided to spurn mighty Alabama to quarterback the home state Bulldogs. It’s one that’s still being written, and could end with him holding the ultimate prize.

Even if he doesn’t win the big one, I love Jake Fromm. Georgia fans have doubted him at every turn, and he has answered the critics every time. Look at these numbers for a second...

  • 31-6 as a starter
  • Career Completion % - 66.2 (#5 SEC history)
  • Career Passing Efficiency - 162.9 (#4 SEC history, #14 NCAA history)
  • 10-1 versus Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech & Tennessee

Despite all of his greatness, Georgia fans still question Jake Fromm. After last week’s incredible performance against the hated Gators, I still saw people complaining about Fromm’s play. There’s a reason we have that saying about the color of the grass on the other side. Enough is enough, Bulldog Nation.

As Fromm and Kirby celebrated last Saturday you could see the closeness between them. In my hotel room in Denver I took in what appeared to be the most genuine moment of the Kirby Smart era. I was mildly shocked by the amount of affection Kirby displayed for his quarterback, but most of all I was happy for Jake Fromm. Particularly, I was happy that he had once again proved his doubters wrong.

For years we’ve watched Fromm have the perfect answer for everything. He’s rarely betrayed emotion, and sometimes sounds like a robot programmed to give the perfect “team first guy” answer. On Saturday, Jake Fromm almost cried. His voice cracked and he started to tear up as he talked about the coach who has always believed in him. He got most emotional when he pointed at the turf under his feet and said, “... And I’m so thankful to be here.”

Jake Fromm has loved Georgia with all his heart, even when Georgia hasn’t loved him back like it should. He is exceptionally collegiate, in that he has never made all of this seem like a waypoint on his journey to the NFL. That is exceedingly rare for a quarterback with his talent. I have watched some great Georgia quarterbacks, but none of them lived under as much scrutiny as Jake Fromm. Ironically, none of them delivered as much as he has to this point in his career.

We may only have a handful of games left with Jake Fromm at the helm. There’s a chance he might come back to Athens in 2020. It feels more likely that he will because of who Jake Fromm is, and the pride he takes in representing his home state. If he doesn’t return for a Senior year, it won’t change anything about how I view his legacy. Jake Fromm has taken Georgia Football to a special place, and has beared the burden of his position with the same amount of determination in good times and bad. When he does land on an NFL roster, I will buy his jersey. I’ve never done that before.

As I watched Fromm choke up on Saturday night, I felt an unexpected wave of emotion. He seemed like the kid that he is, and I felt sorry for all the unnecessary shit he’s had to deal with from those fringes of the fan base that expect him to be a perfect football robot, never missing a read or a throw. Partly out of joy for beating Florida, partly our of relief for beating Florida, partly out of feeling close to the fellow Bulldogs in my life and partly out of sadness for what Fromm has had to go through the last few years, I teared up a bit too. For a brief moment, I think I felt all that Fromm has given to be “here,” standing on that field as Georgia’s starting quarterback.

I glanced at the clock. It was almost five, so I ran to the convention center for my next appointment. As the elevator descended, I thought about precious time, and that gifted hour I got to spend watching the Dawgs whip the Gators. Then I thought about Jake Fromm, and the time we have left with him in a Georgia jersey.

Soon he’ll be gone, and I’m afraid Georgia won’t have loved him back like it should have.