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Why did Justin Fields transfer from Georgia? Tracking the star quarterback’s journey to Ohio State

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Why did Justin Fields transfer from Georgia? Tracking the star quarterback's journey to Ohio State

Justin Fields is putting the finishing touches on a prolific if abbreviated junior season, completing 22 of 28 passes for 385 yards and six touchdowns against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals. It’s performances like that that has Ohio State feeling good about its national championship hopes, looking to rekindle their 2015 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama en route to a CFP title.

That said, Fields nearly achieved all his accolades not at Ohio State, but at Georgia, where he enrolled in 2018. Things didn’t work out for the Georgia native at his home-state school, however, prompting him to head north for a better chance at playing time.

In the end, it appears to have been the right choice. With that, here’s everything you need to know about Fields’ decision to transfer from Georgia to Ohio State:

MORE: Will Justin Fields be healthy for CFP championship?

Where did Justin Fields transfer from?

Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State from Georgia, where he played a single season in 2018.

Many wondered why Fields, the No. 2 player in the class of 2018 — behind only Trevor Lawrence — committed to the Bulldogs in the first place. It likely had to do with his proximity to Athens, Ga., just an hour and 40 minutes east of Fields’ hometown of Kennesaw. Still, Fields would have to usurp true sophomore Jake Fromm for the starting job, a season after the latter led Georgia to a berth in the 2017 College Football Playoff national title game.

Fromm ended up starting all 14 games for Georgia that season. Fields announced his decision to transfer in January 2019, giving him this final statline at Georgia: 12 games played; 27 of 39 passing (69.2 percent) for 328 yards and four touchdowns; 42 rushes for 266 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and four touchdowns; one reception for minus-10 yards.

Curiously, Fields’ transfer occurred one year after Joe Burrow transferred from Ohio State to LSU after he failed to earn the starting position in Columbus. Burrow won the Heisman Trophy while leading LSU to the 2019 national championship in his second year in Baton Rouge.

Why did Justin Fields transfer from Georgia?

Fields transferred from Georgia in January 2019. One factor in that almost certainly had to do his inability to earn the starting position at Georgia: Per a December 2018 report from Dan Wolken, Fields was set on transferring after backing up Fromm throughout the 2018 campaign.

Another rumored element was a Sept. 29, 2018 incident in which Georgia baseball player Adam Sasser directed a racial slur at Fields. Sesser, then a senior second baseman for the Bulldogs, yelled from the stands of Sanford Stadium to “put the (N-word) in” after Fromm struggled against SEC East rival Tennessee. Fromm finished the game completing 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards. Sasser was dismissed from the team the following week.

When Fields announced his decision to transfer to Ohio State in January, he made no mention of the incident, thanking not only coach Kirby Smart and his staff for their role in his development, but also Georgia fans who supported him:

Still, Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde reported that Fields sought a hardship waiver from the NCAA on the grounds he didn’t feel comfortable playing for Georgia’s baseball team. He was considered an MLB prospect in high school and a potential collegiate baseball player. Fields was granted the hardship waiver on Feb. 8, 2018 — he was already enrolled at Ohio State and taking part in winter conditioning drills — but refuted any notion that he didn’t feel comfortable at Georgia:

“I would like to thank the NCAA for its approval of the waiver allowing me to be eligible to play football this fall,” Fields said in a statement. “While my case was pending before the NCAA, my family and I did not feel that it was appropriate to publicly speak about the circumstances leading to my transfer. In my silence, people began to speculate, and the story took on a life of its own.

“Now that this matter is concluded, I would like to clarify some facts. I have no regrets about my time at UGA and have no hard feelings for the school or football program. My overall experience at UGA was fully consistent with UGA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. My sister is a softball player at UGA. I am still close friends with many of my UGA teammates. A part of me will always be a Georgia Bulldogs fan.”

Fields’ lawyer, Tom Mars, backed up Fields’ claim in a statement issued to ESPN.

“Irrefutable documentation that has nothing to do with racism was presented to the NCAA in support of OSU’s request that Justin Fields be given a waiver,” Mars told ESPN. “That information wasn’t critical of — and didn’t reflect poorly on — the UGA culture, the UGA administration or staff, any particular student, or the student body. And it certainly didn’t reflect poorly on Justin or any member of his family. However, that documentation did provide support for the issuance of a waiver under the NCAA’s rules.”

Why did Justin Fields pick Ohio State?

Unlike many who enter the NCAA’s transfer portal, Fields left no doubt to where he was transferring. The question of “where” then became “why.”

Fields, meeting with reporters on the Buckeyes’ 2019 signing day, said his relationship with Ohio State coach Ryan Day was the biggest reason he transferred to Ohio State:

“Coach Day is a great coach. Great offensive-minded coach. We had a relationship in high school, but they had a commit at the time when I was getting recruited by them so I didn’t really have great contact with them at that time,” Fields said. “(Day) is smart as I can see already. I’ve met with him on some plays already and I can already tell he’s a great offensive-minded coach.”

That said, Fields said he had no expectations of being given the starting spot, which was open after the departure of Dwayne Haskins to the NFL. Day echoed that sentiment after Ohio State’s 2019 spring game, in which Fields completed 4 of 13 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown while adding 38 rushing yards and another score.

“I’m going to keep looking at it,” Day said at the time. “I don’t think right there we are going to make a decision on that. It will continue into the preseason.”

Fields kept repeating that line into early August, saying, “You can’t come in and act like you’re the leader. You have to get used to the guys and build relationships with them so they trust you.” Roughly two weeks later, Day announced Fields as the starting quarterback.

Day’s decision paid off: Fields was immediately successful, completing 238 of 354 passes (67.2 percent) for 3,272 yards and 41 touchdowns to three interceptions. He also added 137 rushes for 484 yards (3.5 yards per attempt) and 10 scores. That earned the true sophomore a third-place finish in the 2019 Heisman voting, behind Burrow and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Most importantly, Fields led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record, a Big Ten championship and a berth in the 2019 Playoff. Ohio State’s season ended with a Fiesta Bowl semifinal loss to Clemson; Fields threw an interception on the Buckeyes’ final offensive play of the season, allowing the Tigers to kneel and claim a 29-23 win.

What is Justin Fields’s college major?

According to Fields’ Ohio State roster page, he is majoring in consumer and family financial services.

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Bills, Sean McDermott roasted for ‘cowardly’ field goal attempt in AFC championship game

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Bills, Sean McDermott roasted for 'cowardly' field goal attempt in AFC championship game

When it doubt, kick it out?

The Bills, down 12 points in the closing seconds of the first half of Sunday’s AFC championship game, were faced with a decision: Try to score a touchdown on fourth down to tighten the gap, or kick a field goal to make a two-possession game a . . . two-possession game.

MORE: Bills-Chiefs live updates, highlights

Well, as has been the theme of the 2020 NFL playoffs, McDermott and the Bills decided to kick the field goal to make the score 21-12, Chiefs. Keep in mind, the field goal was from the Chiefs’ 2, or a 20-yarder. That’s 13 fewer yards than an extra point.

A touchdown in that situation, at minimum, brings the score to 21-15, with the extra point pending. That, obviously, would have put the Bills into one-possession territory. Instead, the field goal kept the game at two possessions with some dude named Patrick Mahomes on the other sideline going nuclear in his return from concussion protocol.

Plenty of people had thoughts on McDermott’s “cowardly” decision to kick:

Coaches’ decisions to kick in high-stakes situations have been at the forefront of this year’s tournament, with the Packers-Buccaneers NFC championship game earlier in the day featuring its own questionable field goal attempt. The Packers opted to kick rather than go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Bucs’ 8 in the closing minutes of the game while trailing by eight.

Winning coaches make winning calls, so we’ll see if this one comes back to bite the Bills in the Buffalo butt.

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Tom Brady taking Buccaneers to Super Bowl 55 is better than all of his Patriots playoff runs

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Tom Brady taking Buccaneers to Super Bowl 55 is better than all of his Patriots playoff runs

Tom Brady took the Patriots to 13 AFC championship games, got to the Super Bowl nine times with them and won six rings. He’s now 1 for 1 in NFC championship games with the Buccaneers, taking Tampa Bay to a home game in Super Bowl 55.

Brady can’t match everything he did in New England in one year. But considering the degree of difficulty tied to new challenges — a virtual offseason and no preseason while starting somewhat from scratch at age 43 — this latest NFL playoff run is greater than anything we have seen before from the greatest of all time.

MORE: When is Super Bowl 55? Date, time, location

Brady ended up being less pretty and more gritty Sunday in outdueling Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 31-26 in Lambeau Field. But despite three interceptions, Brady was plenty efficient (20-of-36 passing, 280 yards, three TDs, 7.6 yards per attempt, 108.6 rating) and made all the necessary winning plays — including his legendary 39-yard scoring strike to Scotty Miller right before halftime.

The game played out much like most of Brady’s first regular season in Tampa did. There were frustrating mistakes, including errant passes, missed connections with receivers who ran shaky routes and drops. The running game was inconsistent. The defense stopped the run as usual and delivered a strong edge pass rush, but it had lapses in coverage all over the field.

Like in the regular season, in which the Bucs went 11-5 to earn a No. 5 seed as Brady’s first wild-card team, the Buccaneers put it all together in the right situations. Like their two previous road playoff games with Brady, they found a way to shut the door in the fourth quarter with complementary football.

Brady didn’t come to the Bucs expecting them to roll through the top-heavy NFC the way many of his Patriots teams did in the often-weak AFC. There was a lot of unfamiliarity, both for him with his new coaching staff and his young teammates with him. There wasn’t the automatic three-phase discipline he enjoyed so long with Bill Belichick, or an offensive playbook that had become second nature under Josh McDaniels.

With New England no longer being the right place to support his talent, he had to hand-pick a team he thought had the potential to break through and win championships. To say he chose wisely with the Bucs is one of the biggest understatements in NFL history.

Brady’s 2020 season was one of his most brilliant statistically (40 TDs, 12 INTs, 7.6 yards per attempt, 102.2 rating), on par with his three MVP campaigns. Along the way, he had to mesh his quick-release and short-to-intermediate sensibilities from the Patriots with an aggressive downfield passing game with the Buccaneers.

MORE: Brady’s contract points to return with Bucs in 2022

The Bucs had no doubts about Brady’s arm strength, and he took every calculated opportunity to show it off, especially with field-stretching wide receivers as talented as Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Miller. But when he needed different kinds of chain-moving and scoring plays, he went to his old reliable tight end, Rob Gronkowski, and his new reliable tight end, Cameron Brate. Through it all, slot ace Chris Godwin — when healthy — was his go-to guy and rookie Tyler Johnson was his secret weapon.

That’s how Brady operated a Bucs offense minus Brown to a tee against the Packers, while also knowing that Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones have been taking turns as the hot hand in the rushing attack. His offensive linemen overachieved for him as they continued to protect the GOAT.

There was a lingering question whether the Patriots’ dynasty was more Belichick or Brady. Belichick’s Patriots missing the AFC playoffs while Brady’s Buccaneers won the NFC championship doesn’t end that argument, but it confirms the type of winning energy Brady takes away and gives to a team.

The Bucs proved there is a lot of talent surrounding Brady. Many of their big defensive pieces in 2020 also played key roles in 2019, and the holdover wide receivers and tight ends were big attractions even before Brady recruited Gronkowski and Brown to put them over the top.

Brady also has been a conduit to head coach Bruce Arians and an extension of general manager Jason Licht. He met the challenge of motivating and empowering a whole different group of players on and off the field.

At the same time, he played at a very high level and answered those who doubted, including the Patriots, whether he could still do so while growing another year older. Brady went through Drew Brees’ No. 2 Saints and Rodgers’ No. 1 Packers in their buildings, and his Bucs went significantly farther than Russell Wilson’s No. 3 Seahawks. 

Those are the NFC’s three other active Super Bowl-winning QBs and future Hall of Famers. Brady pushed the Buccaneers to be better than all those teams in the end, much like he owned Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco over all those years in the AFC.

It was as if Brady encapsulated 20 seasons with the Patriots into this memorable run with Tampa Bay, inventing the “Buccaneer Way” and perfecting it over a much shorter period of time. He did all of that with a chip on his shoulder and a smile on his face, to go with a rejuvenated mind and body.

When it seemed as though Brady had passed the torch to Patrick Mahomes and other young guns, he dug deep to find one more way to impress us and pad his resume. With the Patriots, things began to look easy with the perennial Super Bowl trips. With the Buccaneers, everything was much harder, and it still didn’t matter — the GOAT got his typical awesome results.

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Why did the Packers kick? Matt LaFleur garners criticism for late fourth-quarter field goal

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Why did the Packers kick? Matt LaFleur garners criticism for late fourth-quarter field goal

It wasn’t a bold strategy, Cotton, and it didn’t pay off for them.

It wasn’t Peter La Fleur, but rather Matt LaFleur (no relation) who baffled inquiring minds during the NFC championship game on Sunday afternoon. Facing a 31-23 deficit with just over two minutes left in regulation, the Packers coach elected to go for a field goal rather than trying to tie the game up at 31 with a touchdown and 2-point conversion. Green Bay never got the ball back after a Mason Crosby chip shot, and the Buccaneers walked away with a 31-26 win.

MORE: Buccaneers’ Leonard Fournette scores “Grown Man Touchdown”

The decision was met with criticism all over, labeling LaFleur and the Packers as, well, less-than-gutsy for the decision.

Why did the Packers choose to kick a field goal?

According to advanced win probability stats (via ESPN’s Seth Walder), the decision to go for it in that position just barely edged out the decision to kick the field goal.

Assuming the Packers score there, they would have needed the 2-point conversion for the tie, meaning it’s essentially anyone’s ballgame after that point. The Packers and LaFleur, knowing they had three timeouts and the 2-minute warning in their pocket (four clock stoppages), likely felt the field goal was the safer route.

Consider the outcomes:

  • Packers score a touchdown, don’t convert on 2-point conversion: 31-29, need a stop and field goal
  • Packers score a touchdown, convert on 2-point conversion: 31-31, need a stop and field goal or go to overtime
  • Packers kick the field goal: 31-26, need a stop and touchdown

The outcomes are all there and pretty obvious, so this begs this question: Why go for it?

LaFleur will have some questions to answer postgame.

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