After a season where the SF 49ers had league-average, or even below league-average quarterback play, there has been ample discussion about improving the quarterback room, whether with a high-end upgrade to the starting position or one to improve their depth.
General manager John Lynch seemed to point to the latter when on the Eye Test for Two podcast earlier this week when he said, “I really believe that [Jimmy Garoppolo] is at quarterback when they line up in September,” (h/t 49ers.com) and that “we got to have better options if he’s not there.” (h/t nbcsports.com).
While it’s never smart operating procedure to take what a team official says in the public, the exceedingly high cost to acquire a new starter will likely prove too much for San Francisco.
But this article isn’t about the merits of Garoppolo or whether another quarterback, such as the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson or a high draft pick, would be better.
It’s about the other position: the backup QB.
The backup quarterback can be, at times, the most popular player on a team. With limited exposure and usually little to no tape on him, he can flash in brief spurts, offering promise but never having to truly prove it. This sort of fool’s gold gives a backup very long and lucrative careers. But the stark reality is most backups are backups for a reason. When you play them for extended periods of time, they showcase their many flaws.
There are two types of backups valuable in the league: the veteran who can run the offense in a pinch and the young backup with untapped potential. Both are a specific types of investments for a team, and in order to build a strong contender, they should be in play only for certain situations.
Let’s take a look first at the veteran, and see exactly why it might not be a good fit for the SF 49ers right now.