What Jake Fromm’s up-and-down season means for his future

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On paper, Jake Fromm has all the traits of an NFL quarterback. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Georgia’s signal-caller has the prototypical size associated with the position. His arm is more than capable to make the necessary throws, and he’s more athletic than you think, rushing for 10 yards or more 13 times in his career.

The intangibles are all there, too. He’s smart, thoughtful and well respected as a leader. The only time he seems to find trouble is on the water; last summer, he broke his hand during a freak boating accident and a lure got snagged in his calf while fishing.

Still, he’s been the SEC’s Iron Man the past three years, starting 41 consecutive games. He has won a whopping 34 of them. During that time, only 16 quarterbacks have averaged a Total QBR of 80 or more — including the past three Heisman Trophy winners and four first-round NFL draft picks — and he’s one of them.

When it comes to the metric that arguably translates best to the NFL — completion percentage — he’s been rock solid. Despite running a pro-style offense that doesn’t utilize as many short passes as the spread, he has never failed to complete fewer than 60% of his passes in a given season, and he’s never thrown double-digit interceptions. In fact, he’s had only 18 picks his entire career, which is fewer than two teams (Texas State and UAB) had this season alone.

As his coach, Kirby Smart, said back in the summer, there are certain things every NFL scout is looking for, and Fromm, well, “he checks every single box on that list.”

But after the up-and-down junior season that followed those comments, it’s fair to wonder whether the whole of Fromm’s résumé has become less than the sum of its parts. During the summer, he seemed like a good bet to enter the NFL draft, but now, heading into Wednesday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl against Baylor, we’re left to wonder if this will be the end of his time in college or if he’ll return for his senior year and try to go out on a high note.

Asked about it Sunday, Fromm told reporters in New Orleans he has already received his draft grade and will sit down with his family after the bowl game to decide his future.

“Football seasons are always tough,” he said of the toll this season has taken on him. “There are a lot of highs and lows in a football season. But you love football, love this team, love this university, and I could not ask to be in a better spot.”

In so many ways, though, the SEC championship game a month ago felt like a microcosm for his lost season. Georgia lost to LSU in a landslide 37-10, and Fromm felt like the scapegoat for having completed just 20 of his 42 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

But the loss was much deeper than numbers on a stat sheet. On one side of the field was a quarterback who was expected to be in the middle of the pack in the conference, Joe Burrow, who had instead become the runaway Heisman Trophy winner. Burrow got a new coordinator on offense, Joe Brady, and everything changed as the Tigers evolved into perhaps the most dynamic offense in the sport.

Then, there was Fromm on the other side of the field, who had fallen from his perch in the SEC quarterback rankings. He got a new offensive coordinator during the offseason, too, but instead of sweeping change under James Coley, it seemed as if the Bulldogs got more of the same run-oriented, mostly conservative calls they had in the past.

Smart said they tried to do something different against LSU, understanding a run-heavy offense wouldn’t be able to keep pace against Burrow & Co. But either it was too little too late or the passing game just wasn’t up for the challenge.

Personnel was an issue. While Burrow had two of the best receivers in the country in Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, what exactly did Fromm have to work with? Could you name any of his receivers? Fromm’s favorite target, Lawrence Cager, was out with an injury, as he had been for parts of the season. His talented freshman, George Pickens, was suspended for the first half after punching an opponent during the regular-season finale. And Dominick Blaylock, another promising freshman, tore his ACL in the first quarter.

Fromm, for his part, didn’t make any excuses — in spite of a few noticeable drops early in the game. While he admitted that injuries were “kind of tough on us,” he said it was all about having a “next man up” mentality and persevering.

Smart chimed in then, noting how wide receiver Kearis Jackson was also knocked out of the game.

(It went unsaid at the time, but it should be noted that Georgia dismissed its top returning receiver from last season, Jeremiah Holloman, during the summer.)

At the close of the somber news conference, a reporter asked Smart why Fromm had such a down year given how much better his numbers were the two prior seasons. Smart said he counted five to six drops in the game that could have become explosive plays, and then he pointed to the sideline to explain the talent disparity at receiver.

“One is on the bench in the first half, one is in a wheelchair, and two or three are in the NFL that came out early,” he explained. “That’s just tough.”

While there’s no denying the validity of that statement, what does it say about next season? Cager will have moved on, and there’s no telling how much better those freshmen will be.

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