Giants vs. Bears: It’s come full circle for the quarterbacks

It’s almost too unbelievable to be true.

Two of the most hotly contested quarterback controversies in college football over the last decade took place at North Carolina State in the spring of 2011 and at Georgia in the fall of 2018. And the Giants have the winners of both of those battles, in Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm, who might rotate during Sunday’s game against the Bears in the type of tandem sometimes seen in the NCAA, but rarely in the NFL.

The two losers of those competitions? Well, they too are linked to the Giants through the promise of what might have been and what still could be.

The pie-in-the-sky hope to rescue the Giants from a five-year stretch as the losingest team in the NFL is Russell Wilson, who is open to an offseason trade to New York after a 10-year Hall of Fame-caliber run with the Seahawks. Way back when, then-North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien picked Glennon as his starter after he spent two seasons backing up Wilson, who then transferred to Wisconsin and took off.

Justin Field and Jake Fromm
AP; Getty Images

“Two NFL quarterbacks that are only a [recruiting] class apart probably doesn’t happen a whole lot at the college level,” Glennon, a nine-year journeyman, said after Wednesday’s practice. “But, it was neat to see [Wilson’s] progression in college and then go win a Super Bowl in his second year. It really gave me confidence after seeing him every day. I knew what he was capable of doing, but knowing that I belonged at this level, as well.”

Trading the farm for Wilson would mean giving up on injured starting quarterback Daniel Jones, which the Giants weren’t ready to do eight months ago. If they had been, maybe they would have drafted Justin Fields instead of trading the No. 11 pick to the Bears, who selected the quarterback.

Fields cemented himself as a first-round pick after two dominant seasons at Ohio State. He transferred to the Buckeyes after — you guessed it — losing a quarterback battle to Fromm. Georgia played for a national title with Fromm starting as a true freshman and coach Kirby Smart was willing to lose Fields by sticking with Fromm as a sophomore when juggling two five-star recruits.

“It made me a better football player,” said Fromm, a 2020 fifth-round draft pick signed by the Giants off of the Bills’ practice squad this month. “I got to learn about the things that he did well, and I got to get better at the things that I did well. Just seeing how another great player, great athlete plays the quarterback position.”

That brings the circle back to Sunday, when Fromm and Fields will be on opposite sidelines. Both, one or neither could start: Fields (ankle) missed the Bears’ last game and remains limited in practice. The Giants are more likely to turn to Glennon on the heels of Fromm’s ugly first career start.

“I would expect to see both guys play,” head coach Joe Judge said of the Giants’ two options. “As we go through the game plan, obviously we’re going to bracket some different things together if we think one thing is better for one guy, one is better for the other guy. We’ll see how they practice.”

Neither Glennon nor Fromm — both of whom will be free agents after the season — are seen as a viable long-term alternative when the ticking clock on Jones’ time as the Giants franchise quarterback expires. Meanwhile, one college teammate forced to transfer (Wilson) already has provided the decade of successful stability for the Seahawks that the Bears are hoping the other (Fields) offers them.

Maybe Wilson will wind up doing the same for the Giants? For the final two weeks of this lost season, fans will watch the options deemed best by North Carolina State and Georgia.

“We had, I guess you can call it, a friendly competition,” Glennon recalled of dueling with Wilson. “I really enjoyed my time with Russell. He’s one of the hardest-working, dedicated teammates I’ve ever been around. Obviously, it was a tough situation when a player of that caliber is only a year ahead of you and it kind of creates an uncertainty in your future, but at the end of the day it worked out for both of us.”

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