Sports bettors don’t spend much of their time thinking about backup quarterbacks. At least not when it comes to making picks on the spread, the combined point total, and moneylines.
Say the Chargers are playing in Week 10 and you’re filling out your betslip before kickoff. If Justin Herbert is not on the injury report, you’re probably not giving a second thought to who’s backing him up. Chances are, you might not even know who it is.
There are some instances, though, where QB2 impacts a team’s weekly success and the betting landscape. Jets QB Zach Wilson was sidelined with a knee injury during the 2022 preseason, so backup Joe Flacco is starting in his place. Flacco starting probably affects how you bet the Jets. And if we’re being honest, you might wager them to cover or win straight up more with Wilson out than when he’s in.
Another example is in Cleveland. With the 11-game Deshaun Watson suspension, Jacoby Brissett will be the Browns’ QB1 for the foreseeable future. That suspension lengthened Cleveland’s Super Bowl futures across sportsbooks and certainly made bettors shy on betting the Browns.
Which brings us to the backup quarterback of the hour — San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jimmy Garoppolo — San Francisco’s Second Man
If you followed the 49ers quarterback saga this offseason, you might be familiar with how things have panned out so far with Jimmy in the Bay. But here’s the reader’s digest version: Garoppolo helped lead the Niners to the Super Bowl in 2019 and an NFC Championship appearance in 2021, and he’s getting benched for Trey Lance — the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
Currently, the jury is out on if Garoppolo as Lance’s second fiddle is the smart move. San Francisco lost 19-10 in Week 1 to a Bears team that has a mean defense. In the meantime, let’s look at why Jimmy G is one of the best backup QBs in the league — and why your betting attitude toward the 49ers could change if he ever becomes QB1.
And by size, we mean height.
Since 2017, all the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks have all been at least 6-foot-2. Granted, Tom Brady at 6-4 is one quarterback accounting for half of the championships in our sample size. But the point still remains.
Reigning Super Bowl champ Matthew Stafford is listed at 6-3, and 2018 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles towers at 6-6. Patrick Mahomes comes in at 6-2. Lucky for Jimmy G — and perhaps for San Francisco— he also comes in at 6-2.
Of course, correlation does not equal causation. And we can’t definitively prove that a QB’s taller height yields him a discernible playing advantage. But here’s what we do know. Taller quarterbacks can see the field more clearly and they have a better view over their linemen than a player who’s barely scratching 6 feet.
Drew Brees, anyone?
QB1 in San Francisco stands at a nice 6-4, so Lance has the advantage on Garoppolo there. But that brings us to our next point about what makes Jimmy G one of the best backups in the league.
How often can the backup quarterback also say that he won or played in the Super Bowl as a starter? Flacco can say that. And so can Jimmy G.
Not only did Garoppolo play in the Super Bowl as a starter, but he won two as Brady’s backup in New England. That’s a lot of experience riding the bench behind an unproven QB1 who has only thrown 767 yards and five touchdowns.
In football, just as in life, there’s always a time to move on. Onward and upward, they say. So ushering in the Trey Lance era is not a bad thing, per se. Whether it’s the right thing right now is what still must be determined.
Which brings us to our final point.
— Beyond The Endzone (@BeyondEndzone) September 6, 2022
Garoppolo Against the Spread
How can you bench a player when he’s one of the league’s best at leading his team to victory as an underdog?
According to ESPN, Jimmy G is one of the best underdogs against the spread in the NFL. Before San Francisco’s divisional matchup against Dallas last year, Garoppolo’s record ATS was 14-4. Straight up as an underdog? That record before they beat the Cowboys was 13-5.
From a betting perspective, gamblers who want to get in on some profitable action might consider backing the Niners more often during the season when they’re, a) dogs, and when, b) Garoppolo is starting. As we’ve mentioned before, coach Kyle Shanahan and the organization have stuck with the messaging that Lance is their guy. So the likelihood that Garoppolo ends up being the starter is — well, who really knows.
But just remember that if Jimmy G does end up taking starter snaps, he has an incredible record ATS and SU as an underdog.
A More-Than Reliable No. 2
Ultimately, Garoppolo is a more-than reliable No. 2 option for any team. And considering his record against the spread as an underdog and his experience leading San Francisco into two deep playoff runs, some NFL team might eventually pick him up as their No. 1.
In the meantime, we’ll wait to see how it all unfolds in San Francisco as Lance takes first-team snaps while Garoppolo looks on. In the Week 1 loss to Chicago, Lance completed 13 of 28 passes for 164 yards and an interception, and he rushed 14 times for 54 yards.