Concussions could become a tool for managing quarterback controversy

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For years, NFL coaches have used injury as cover for playing the guys they want to play.  It was, for example, the “100 percent rule” that kept Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson on the bench indefinitely in 1998 while Randall Cunningham was having a season for the ages, even though Johnson’s Week Two broken leg had fully healed.

Today, the unprecedented sensitivity to concussions gives teams another tool for managing lineups while minimizing controversy, especially as it relates to quarterbacks.

Though there’s no smoking gun (yet) to suggest that teams are using it, in a sport where every decision has a strategic component, it would be naive to assume that teams won’t hide behind concussion symptoms in order to bench players without really benching them — or to keep players on the bench without creating the impression of indecision or a revolving door.  And it would be even more naive to assume it hasn’t already happened.

It’s a subject we tackled on Tuesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk.  If you missed it, you can watch it below.

Perhaps most significantly, it’s one of the few times that Ross Tucker and I completely agree on anything.

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4 responses to “Concussions could become a tool for managing quarterback controversy

  1. How about just telling the players the truth? Saying that you don’t think they are 100% is deceitful and the players will react that way. Tell the media who is starting and if asked why, simply state that it’s the coach’s decision to start the guy that gives the team the best chance to win. All the rest is just garbage speculation and armchair quarterbacking from people that do not have the responsibility for the decision.

  2. I thought Harbaugh might use precisely that tactic to see Kaepernick in another game before appearing to bench Smith.

    But perhaps not–he said on the radio this morning that he expects Smith to be cleared for contact by the end of the week, but he also said he won’t say who will start yet. Part of that is his usual gamesmanship–he doesn’t give opponents any more info than he has to–but it’s also a clear statement that he is not treating Starting QB as a position of political appointment. He is willing to play the guy who gives them the best chance of winning, and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him for it.

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