A gambler this week laid down a $1,000 bet that quarterback Josh Rosen will be the 2021 Week 1 starting QB for the San Francisco 49ers. If you’re not familiar with the 49ers depth chart at the position, just go ahead and assume this is an incredible long shot. For his (or her speculation), the prop bettor received 33-1 odds on their thousand down.
Currently, 49ers’ previous year’s starter and 2019 Super Bowl starter Jimmy Garoppolo is considered the strong favorite to open the season at QB for the Niners. While Jimmy G. was injured yet again in 2020, missing a solid chunk of the season, and was rumored to be on the trading block pre-draft this offseason, he remains on the roster. He’s the most veteran, most experienced, and most familiar QB with the Coach Kyle Shanahan offensive scheme. Not for nothing, Garappolo’s W/L record as a starter with the Niners is 22-8 (24-9 including the 2019 playoffs). Not too shabby. He’s also being paid in full under a hefty contract. He’s QB1.
Of course, the 49ers also spent the offseason wheeling, dealing, and drafting up to take QB1 of the future, Trey Lance. The Niners mortgaged first-round picks the next two drafts to acquire Lance, the inexperienced but incredibly gifted athletic QB out of North Dakota State. Nobody believes there’s a chance Lance was ever going to be slotted to start this season for the 49ers. He’s the least experienced out of all the QBs drafted in the draft’s first round. Though many assume that team management is assuming Jimmy G. could easily suffer another leg injury midseason, in which case, prep Lance for the ready, even if still wet behind the ears.
Behind Jimmy G. and Trey Lance, the 49ers have three additional signed QBs. Nate Sudfield, the former Indiana University standout, Josh Johnson, the NFL journeyman backup QB, and Josh Rosen, the former highly touted first-round pick out of UCLA who was sat down by both the Cardinals and the Dolphins, respectively, in his first two years in the league. Among these three, only Sudfield has guaranteed money, around $250,000, if the Niners cut him. That’s what you call chump change in the NFL.
Every NFL team needs a minimum of two QBs on the roster to start a game. Many teams post three, just in case. And it’s common to have a fourth QB sitting somewhere on the back burner non-roster. In either case, one of these three backups to the backup will likely be gone from the organization during the preseason, maybe two.
While it’s hard to see a path whereby Josh Rosen becomes the Week 1 starting QB, it’s certainly not impossible. Given Jimmy G.’s injury history, what if he injures himself before the season even begins and can’t go in Week 1. Would the 49ers put their young-kid-star of the future out there on the opening weekend? Especially if he hasn’t been prepping for such all preseason camp? You could see them saying, no way to having the kid take lumps like that. Which leaves you with the backups to the backups.
Among these three, Rosen could certainly win QB3. Josh Johnson has been around forever, which may say steady hand, but it has never really said winning games. Nate Sudfield has had fewer opportunities, but there’s nothing shiny and new and hopeful per se about his resume. Rosen is the youngest of the three. He started his freshman year at college at 18 and came out at 21. He’s only 24 now and is still tall with a cannon for an arm. While Rosen has been tagged with the “draft bust” moniker, these cases don’t always simply fade away into horrible-draft pick Top 10 lists. A few do circle back and make their own mark. Alex Smith of the very same 49ers comes to mind.
So what sounds initially like a beyond crazy bet, may not be so crazy. Look at it this way. If there’s a 10% chance Garoppolo’s leg, legs, head, arms, or what have you have him unable to play Week 1, and there’s a 90% chance the 49ers decide against throwing Trey Lance into the storm Week 1, then divide those odds evenly among the three QBs remaining, you have a 3% chance Rosen is the starting QB Week 1. 33-1 odds.
What says you about this bet? Crazy or crazy like a fox? Let us know in the comments below.