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NFL MVP odds: Why 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo is good long-shot bet to win

NFL MVP odds: Why 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo is good long-shot bet to win

Caesars Sportsbook released their MVP odds for the 2020 NFL season, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is the favorite at 4-1 ($100 bet wins $400).

But what about Mahomes' Super Bowl counterpart, 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo?

Garoppolo sits all the way down at 50-1, but a flier is enticing at those odds. Let's break down why Jimmy G isn't a bad longshot bet to win the 2020 NFL MVP award.

QBs always win

There’s little doubt at this point that a QB will win the award. Only one non-QB has won in the last 13 seasons, and that was Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2012. 

So, quarterback is the way to go if you’re making any bet. Apologies to George Kittle at 300-1.

Additionally, a first-time winner has won each of the last two seasons (Mahomes and Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson), and per ESPN Stats and Info, four of the past five winners have had 30-1 odds or longer in the preseason. Lamar Jackson was listed at 40-1 before the start of last season. 

Making the leap

A QB already has won an MVP under Kyle Shanahan’s tutelage: Matt Ryan in 2017 with the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan's numbers dramatically improved in his second full season in the offense. 

Ryan’s first season under Shanahan: 4,591 yards, 21 TDs, 16 INT, 7.5 YPA, 66.3 comp pct 

Ryan’s second season under Shanahan: 4,944 yards, 38 TDs, 7 INTs, 9.3 YPA, 69.9 comp pct

Now, the comparison isn’t perfect because Garoppolo has 27 starts with Shanahan under his belt entering this season. But he only has one full season starting, just like Matt Ryan prior to his MVP season.

Even Shanahan didn’t put too much stock into Jimmy's experience before this season mattering. He also doesn't think Jimmy has hit his ceiling. 

“I expect him to continue to get better. I don’t think he’s achieved his ceiling yet," Shanahan told Tim Kawakami of the Athletic. "Last year was his first year ever going through a full season as a quarterback. He hadn’t played longer than five games, I think, in a year prior to that."

After hearing all offseason that he blew the Super Bowl and knowing that this could be a make-or-break year, Garoppolo should have all the motivation he needs.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Defense, run game could falter

Now, there is definitely an argument that even at 50-1, it's just a waste of money placing this bet.

The 49ers showed last season that they want to rely on the defense and run game to win. It got them to the Super Bowl. It was a successful recipe.

But what if the 49ers defense regresses?

The 49ers were tied for the league lead in yards per play allowed at 4.6 with the New England Patriots last season. An NFL team hasn't led the league in that category in back-to-back years since the Broncos in 2014-16.  

Nick Bosa had injury concerns in college and might not stay on the field for all 16 games this season. Dee Ford already showed he can have an injury-plagued season.

OK, so the defense regresses, but the run game is still there. However, isn't every team going to sell out against the run to stop the Niners?

Even though Kyle Shanahan is arguably the best offensive play-caller in the league, defenses will try to make him rely on Garoppolo more than he's used to, setting up the potential for big numbers.

[RELATED: Biggest snubs from 49ers Ultimate Draft]

When he's good, he's great

Garoppolo proved last season that when he's playing at his best, not many QBs were better. 

He had three such games last season with 300-plus passing yards, 4-plus TDs with at least a 70-percent completion rate. That number led the NFL. And the Niners won all three of those games (twice against the Cardinals and once against the Saints). 

Wideout Deebo Samuel's versatility as a weapon is unmatched. Tight end George Kittle is a top offensive option in the NFL. The 49ers added Brandon Aiyuk in the first round of the draft. And they traded for 7-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams to replace Joe Staley. The offense isn't short of playmakers. 

Remember, you're not betting on Garoppolo to win the MVP at 4-1 or even 10-1 odds. You're betting on him at 50-1 odds.

If the defense regresses and the running game falls flat to start, Kyle Shanahan will look to his QB to win them the games. If he just does it at a more consistent rate, your 50-1 ticket will be worth having. 

Why 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo could make Matt Ryan-like leap forward in 2020

Why 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo could make Matt Ryan-like leap forward in 2020

Though they kicked the tires on Tom Brady -- and might be tempted to do the same with Aaron Rodgers at some point -- the 49ers remain fully confident in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

"Jimmy had a real good year last year," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on "The TK Show" earlier this week. "I expect him to continue to get better. I don't think he has achieved his ceiling yet. Last year was his first year ever going through a full season as a quarterback. He hadn't played longer than five games, I think, in a year prior to that.

"He had some ups and downs, but I think he finished the second half of the year playing so much better than the first half of the year. Didn't have to do a lot in the playoffs, but I can't wait to get back, where he's not worrying about an ACL all offseason either."

Garoppolo took some time to shake off all of the rust, but he was in top form by the time the 49ers reached the midway point of their 2019 season. From Week 8 on until the end of the regular season, he threw for 2,489 yards and 18 touchdowns, with only six interceptions. Shanahan expects him to continue improving in 2020, and there's reason to believe Garoppolo could make an MVP-like leap based on past history.

Before Shanahan led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, he did the same in his second season as the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator in 2016. His quarterback there, Matt Ryan, significantly improved from his first full season under Shanahan's tutelage to the next.

As Pro Football Focus' Jeff Deeney noted, Ryan's numbers improved across the board in his second season with Shanahan, throwing for nearly 400 more yards, 17 additional touchdowns and nine fewer interceptions, while posting what was by far the best quarterback rating and yards-per-attempt average of his career. He was named a First-Team All-Pro.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Though it's not necessarily apples to apples, it wouldn't be surprising if Garoppolo took a similar leap forward in 2020. While he will have significantly less experience under his belt than Ryan did entering his second full season with Shanahan, one could make the case Garoppolo doesn't have as large of a jump to make.

While Garoppolo threw for about 600 fewer yards compared to Ryan in their first full regular-seasons with Shanahan, he also produced a significantly better passer rating (102.0 to 89.0), averaged nearly one full yard more per attempt (8.4 to 7.5) and threw for six additional touchdowns, despite attempting 138 fewer passes. He also was two years younger than Ryan was at the time.

Now, one could argue that Garoppolo was supported by a better rushing attack, not to mention a better defense, which could have put him in a better position to be more effective. That's a fair point, but there's no reason to expect San Francisco's rushing attack to be any worse in 2020. And given the loss of DeForest Buckner and the additions made on offense, it's certainly possible the 49ers' offense will be more potent this coming season, partly out of necessity.

[RELATED: Why Simms believes 49ers' defense must evolve, modernize]

Garoppolo took the 49ers as far in his first full season under Shanahan as Ryan did in his second.

If Jimmy G can make a Ryan-like leap in 2020, perhaps that can push San Francisco over the hump.

Kyle Shanahan's former QB Matt Ryan explains what makes coach special

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USATSI

Kyle Shanahan's former QB Matt Ryan explains what makes coach special

It's typical for there to be some friendly competition between friends, even those in the NFL who represent different teams.

Although, when Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons defeated the 49ers 29-22 last weekend, the quarterback chose to not rub the win in former coach Kyle Shanahan's face.

"You don't need to say anything after you've won, you know?" Ryan chuckled when he joined the "Stick to Football" podcast earlier this week.

Matty Ice did reveal, however, that he stays in touch with Shanahan, who was an assistant coach in Atlanta the year Ryan captained the team to a Super Bowl appearance. And he even gave a little insight into why Shanahan has turned San Francisco into a successful team.

"I think, as a head coach, he knows exactly what he wants from the players," Ryan told the program. "He knows exactly what he's looking for at certain spots. That, first and foremost, is his greatest strength."

Shanahan won Assistant Coach of the Year honors for the 2016 season, in part because of his play-calling capacity and how well the Ryan-led offense was able to follow it. Ryan himself said that ability that makes Shanahan such a special coach.

"He has a great feel for play-calling and diagnosing how a defense is trying to take away certain things and then being able to expose that," Ryan said. "I was always impressed with that during my time with him."

It doesn't hurt, either, that San Francisco has some great weapons for Shanahan to work with these days.

"He knows exactly what he wants from X wide receiver, what he wants from his Z wide receiver, what his tight end looks like," Ryan said. "He has a pretty good one in (George) Kittle too, he's an X factor for them."

[RELATED: Why Pro Bowl selection means more for Richard Sherman]

But while coach and player represent different teams now, the two have remained friends.

"We stay in touch a lot, and I've texted him throughout the season," Ryan said. "I'm happy for his success because he's a good friend of mine and (we) certainly had a good working relationship together. I'm happy for him and he deserves it. He works extremely hard."

Ryan did add make sure to add on the podcast, however: "But it was nice to get the W on Sunday."