Georgia’s got a quarterback problem.
While Saturday’s 41-21 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship wasn’t entirely on quarterback Stetson Bennett, there’s no denying that he had a lot to do with some of Georgia’s self-inflicted wounds—especially against what had looked like the lowliest Crimson Tide team we’ve seen in recent history. Bennett had his fair share of painfully inaccurate and forced throws and had two interceptions. In an outing that left much to be desired, Bennett completed 29-of-48 passes for 340 yards with three touchdowns and the two costly misfires.
With some of the concerning misses and overall incompetent performance that Bennett delivered, many are asking why transfer quarterback JT Daniels never saw the field during that game. Because with the way Bennett was playing, looking reliant on tight end Brock Bowers in a way that was easy for Alabama to take care of, there was absolutely no doubt that he wouldn’t be able to lead Georgia back from a large deficit.
So why was Daniels, the quarterback who had a phenomenal four-game stretch last season and has delivered outside of the injury setbacks he suffered earlier this year, not called upon? There really is no clear-cut answer to that question.
Daniels missed some time toward the beginning of the season with a core injury and a lat strain and obviously between the time missed between recovery and knocking some of the rust off, playing Bennett was the way to go. But at least the way it has been presented, Daniels has been back at full capacity for weeks now—and none of the performances he delivered earlier in the season when he was still the starter gave any real reason as to why he should be benched in favor of Bennett.
“No, we never discussed (replacing Bennett with Daniels) on the headphones,” Smart told reporters. “Obviously, we have to play better in a lot of areas, but to put any part of that blame or all that blame on Stetson, there’s a lot more to it than that. We’ve got to play better around him. We’ve got to play better on special teams, defense, really all facets of the game. There were some really, really, really good throws last night by Stetson. Some throws that only his guy could catch the ball. He made some good plays. We’ve got to continue to work on the poor decisions on a couple of throws there that were picked off.”
Between the times Smart has mixed in Daniels throughout the season while mostly relying on Bennett, and from Daniels’ starts at the beginning of the year, he’s completed 68-of-94 passes (72.3%) for 722 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
Something’s clearly amiss. In terms of pure passing ability and who gives the Bulldogs a better chance at making explosive plays, Daniels is the better pick. There are a lot of plausible possibilities as to why Kirby Smart may be choosing to play Bennett over Daniels—and everything points to an element that’s perhaps not been made public, because Bennett had several “benchable” moments in the title game and it wasn’t the first time he’s had a poor showing as a passer or played a poor game overall.
But the way things look right now, it seems that Georgia might as well give Daniels a whirl at some point this postseason because if Bennett plays anything like he did on Saturday and the rest of the supporting cast and defense can’t bail him out to find success in spite of him, you can go ahead and kiss Georgia’s national championship chances goodbye.
Bennett has had some solid moments this season with some impressive throws downfield and has an ability to extend plays with his legs—a type of mobility Daniels doesn’t have—but he simply can’t play this poorly again going up against top competition.