Marquee quarterbacks are almost always a prereq for placing a solid Super Bowl bet. But as usual, the game is once again changing, and these days, it seems as though you can get away with placing a futures bet on teams without a marquee quarterback.
While there is still risk involved, even more risk than betting on teams whose marquee quarterbacks upgrade the talent of everyone around them, teams without such quarterbacks are not as risky as they once were.
Today’s post will look into the issue deeper and weigh both the pros and cons of placing a futures bet on teams without quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, or Aaron Rodgers.
Fringe Quarterbacks Versus Marquee Quarterbacks
So what constitutes a fringe quarterback for the purpose of today’s post?
It’s not fringe in a way that you would define, say, a fringe roster position. In these terms, a fringe quarterback points to a player that is not listed among the marquee names. Players like Lamar Jackson, despite a former MVP season, will fit this category.
Ditto for players like Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo (Trey Lance to an extent), Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Ryan Tannehill, among others.
We could even place Deshaun Watson in this category since, despite putting up monster numbers with the Houston Texans in 2020, won just 4 games. Clearly, he did not elevate the entire team’s talent.
Odds are, you can also place a 44-year-old Tom Brady here, considering the talent of the Buccaneers versus his mediocre numbers during his final days with the New England Patriots. Back in 2015, Peyton Manning also joined the fringe category.
Instead, the talent around them elevates them.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have your marquee quarterbacks. Quarterbacks that, despite possessing players with talent around them, have enough ability to elevate the talent of their teammates.
Players like Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson pop out at you. Ben Roethlisberger is, for the purposes of today’s post, in this category. Quarterbacks like Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert will, barring a catastrophic decline in play, also grace this category in the near future.
Why Marquee Quarterbacks are No Longer a Prereq
For one, coaches are now adapting their system to their quarterback’s talents. You saw Jim Harbaugh do this, and Lamar Jackson in turn turned in an MVP season back in 2019.
And let’s be honest: Jackson’s passing mechanics, even as I write today’s post in 2021, remain rather fringe. Good enough to be a starter, but still rather fringe, and 2021 will be a dynamic test for him.
But look at Baker Mayfield, who in 2019 was one of just 2 quarterbacks to throw for over 20 interceptions. In 2020, Kevin Stefanski changed the Browns’ pass-happy approach and inserted a smashmouth system.
Mayfield turned in the most successful season of any Browns quarterback since the early 1990s. Literally, since Bernie Kosar stalked Cleveland Municipal Stadium all those seasons ago. Kirk Cousins thrives in a similar system in Minneapolis. Ditto for Ryan Tannehill in Nashville.
Sometimes, the talent surrounding the quarterback along with a team’s defense makes them a solid Super Bowl bet. Look at Washington, whose defense is among the best in football while the offense boasts talent all over the field.
When Ryan Fitzpatrick went down in Week 1, Taylor Heinicke was at least able to keep Washington in contention against an ultra-talented Los Angeles Chargers team.
Gone are the days where marquee quarterbacks are stealing the show. At one time in the AFC, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger played in nearly every Super Bowl. None of them had much in the way of sensational talent around them.
Other than Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Brady had little to work with back in the day. Ditto for Peyton Manning during his waning days as a Colt outside Reggie Wayne.
And Manning never had a great defense in Indianapolis outside of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.
Roethlisberger’s defense and running game won him Super Bowl XL. But in 2008, you could argue that Santonio Holmes was Ben’s best receiver. Hines Ward was older, and Heath Miller was never better than serviceable. Although he carved himself a solid career.
Would Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, and Ryan Tannehill win football games with the Steelers, Patriots, Colts, and (later) Broncos of the mid-2000s and 2010s?
We will never know the answer. But considering the sample sizes they have shown, we can assume they would not. Mayfield and Tannehill never reach their full potential without Nick Chubb and Derrick Henry opening things up for them.
Jackson leans on a committee of backs and rarely throws the ball over 30 times a game.
The Dangers of Betting on Fringe Quarterbacks
While it’s no longer a prerequisite to place a solid Super Bowl bet on a team with a marquee quarterback, don’t think those in the fringe category have fully taken over or have changed the game. Even if we could have placed Tom Brady into the fringe category 2 seasons ago in 2019.
Marquee quarterbacks still rule the world. In 2013, Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl. He’s a marquee. Tom Brady won in 2014, 2016, and 2018, the latter being his final season as a marquee quarterback. Patrick Mahomes won the Super Bowl in 2019.
Want more fun? Manning and Brady, as stated earlier in today’s post, were in the marquee category for years. Only Foles (2017), won the Super Bowl in the fringe category to have never made it into the marquee category.
You can make the case for Wilson winning the big game in the fringe category back in 2013. Wilson had a sensational defense. However, what makes a marquee quarterback?
A quarterback that provides the final puzzle piece, or an important puzzle piece, in leading their team to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks were very average before Wilson arrived, even with a strong defense. And besides the 2005 season, they always struggled for recognition in the national spotlight.
You may argue that Jackson is there. However, his inability to win big games keeps him fringe. Jackson also struggles with downfield accuracy, a problem you can trace back to his college days. Mayfield also struggles when the Browns must rely on him as opposed to his running game.
We see the same thing happen to Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Ryan Tannehill.
Overall, fringe quarterbacks are still a riskier bet, but the gap is closing.
Let’s look further into it.
Fringe Quarterbacks Close the Gap
While marquee quarterbacks hold the edge in the Super Bowl betting realm, fringe quarterbacks are closing the gap.
As mentioned toward the beginning of today’s post, coaches are now building around their quarterback’s strengths. Baker Mayfield, for example, puts up average numbers without a running game and when he does not make throws from play-action.
- Jackson struggles when asked to throw the ball over 30 times a game.
- Tannehill suffers from the same issue.
- While Garoppolo has both a committee of backs and receivers, along with a stellar defense, to keep his 33-8 (and counting) career record going strong.
You’re going to see this trend more in the future. Quarterbacks like Justin Fields and Trey Lance, along with Mac Jones have fringe qualities. And you can even place Zach Wilson in that category. Trevor Lawrence has obvious marquee expectations.
But other than Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert, both of whom display marquee characteristics, who else is there?
However, the Dolphins and Bengals are on the up and up. The Ravens are there. As are the Browns. When Derrick Henry gets going, the Titans will also contend for the Super Bowl. All 3 aforementioned teams are prime Super Bowl bets. But none of their quarterbacks will ever grace marquee status.
The Dolphins can also join them, and the Buffalo Bills, a team we did not mention, are also there. Remember, Josh Allen did not breakout until the arrival of Stephon Diggs. Without Diggs, Allen did just enough to win games. But Diggs elevated the Bills to Super Bowl contender.
Back in the day, fringe quarterbacks were a better bet. Or would have been a better bet. Guys like Terry Bradshaw you can consider as fringe. Ditto for even Troy Aikman in the 1990s.
But over the last 2 decades, marquee quarterbacks in a passing league were shoo-in bets. These days, the game appears to be changing. So keep an eye out on teams with marquee quarterbacks (those with the ability to elevate talent), and fringe (those elevated by surrounding talent).
In time, you will probably see the fringe quarterbacks once again not only make solid Super Bowl bets, but to start consistently winning Super Bowls again.
What are your thoughts on the comeback of the fringe quarterback as opposed to marquee quarterbacks in terms of Super Bowl betting?