In May, we floated the concept of NFL teams keeping a backup quarterback in quarantine. Coaches like Bruce Arians publicly have suggested that the Buccaneers may employ this strategy in 2020. Privately, more coaches than Arians are thinking about it and talking about it.
Per a league source, the notion of peeling a quarterback away from the rest of the team and keeping him quarantined has begun to spread, as coaches begin to crystallize their plans for the coming season.
The question becomes whether the primary backup or the No. 3 man on the depth chart would be quarantined. The resolution of that question will depend on whether and to what extent the primary backup actively assists in the preparation of the starter, and whether the third-stringer could be trusted to step in and perform if the starter and the primary backup both test positive for COVID-19.
That’s just one of the examples of the planning in which some coaches may engage when it comes to the most important position on a football team. Others could consider the technically-against-the-rules-but-rules-get-broken-all-the-time possibility of having an informal arrangement with a free-agent quarterback who declines all offers from other teams and remains available to be signed if/when needed, with informal compensation making its way to the free-agent quarterback for providing what essentially would be another layer of insurance against an outbreak that could create enough losses to keep a team from making it to the playoffs.
In 1987, a strike resulted in multiple weeks of replacement players. Washington cobbled together a team of capable replacements that went 3-0. And Washington won the Super Bowl this year.
This year, the first challenge will be to minimize the number of games lost by starting-caliber players due to the pandemic. The next challenge will be to have a thorough and detailed plan for constantly replenishing the roster, if/when an outbreak hits. The teams best prepared for both of these dynamics will be the best positioned to thrive in a season that, regardless of all twists and turns, will still end with the presentation of a Lombardi Trophy.