NFL brings back emergency third quarterback rule

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles
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The emergency third quarterback rule is back. It actually never really left.

The league used to allow teams to dress a third quarterback for emergency purposes. If he entered the game before the start of the fourth quarter, the other two could not return. Eventually, the league allowed teams to dress a 46th player, without regard to position.

Few teams ever choose to dress a third quarterback, rolling the dice on lightning not striking twice in the same game at one of the most protected positions. For the 49ers — and the game — the dice came up craps (in the bad way) during the NFC Championship, after San Francisco lost both healthy quarterbacks and had no one else.

Now, the league has brought back the third quarterback rule, giving teams the power to designate a roster spot for an extra signal-caller.

There are two catches. First, the player must be on the 53-man roster; he can’t be called up from the practice squad. Second, the third quarterback can play only if the other two are injured or ejected. If one of the injured quarterbacks if cleared to return, the third quarterback must exit.

The question now becomes whether teams will devote a spot on the 53-man roster to a third quarterback. Plenty currently don’t. Perhaps more now will.

Here’s hoping the league holds the line this time, without eventually morphing the resurrected third-quarterback rule into something that can be used for a player at any position. If that ever happens, most teams would devote the spot to other positions, taking their chances with two quarterbacks.

35 responses to “NFL brings back emergency third quarterback rule

  1. I would make a 49ers joke, but the players would complain about it on Twitter.

  2. It is possible to bring back the emergency draft? The Lions have two picks already injured.

  3. So the QB rule never left and Shanahan just failed to pack his lunch? All those sour grapes over the loss in Philly sure makes for an awful wine but it makes for a great whine coming out of Santa Clara.

  4. Not a good rule.

    Expand the rosters already.

    3 QB’s should always be taken to a game.

  5. The inactive list in the NFL is stupidity. As I always say, the NFL comprises some of the most intellectually-deficient humans on Earth.

  6. I agree with some previous posts about expanding the rosters. But to me it’s not just because of QBs but we all have seen games where teams lose half their lineman in a single half. Just bump it up a few players.

  7. Kyles arrogance cost them at least a real chance at going to the Super Bowl. Inexcusable.

  8. It’s a good change. Nobody wants to see a one armed QB in a playfoff game.

    The NHL has the rule and nobody complains. It’s just folks here who just want to score cheap likes by jumping on the 49ers or any team they are rooting against.

    I am not an SF fan – I just don’t want to see a Playoff game – ANY playoff game – ruined by not having a viable QB in position to play in an emergency.

  9. Don’t need a rule or any change. If a team wants to carry 3 QBs or 1 that is their prerogative. Why do people feel the need to dictate this?

  10. I’m sure that having a Nick Mullens or Nate Sudfeld type player waiting in the wings would have catapulted the Forty Whiners right into the Super Bowl.

  11. All 53 should be able to dress each week…why have the inactive list at all…just increases injury chances to the 45 (or now the 45 plus 1)

  12. The should just add a spot for an emergency QB. Not part of the 53. Make it 53 plus an emergency QB. Easiet thing ever.

  13. Should make it so teams can carry a 3rd QB, 1 additional Offensive position (other than QB), 1 additional Defensive position, 1 additional Special Teams position (LS, K or P). 49 on the game day roster makes for less situations where things can so sideways entirely.

  14. Just make all 53 active on game day. Problem solved. What a dumb rule, 46/53 can play? Then why have 53 on the team. Just let them all be active. There is zero reason to do otherwise.

  15. I could run this league better than Roger. All outdoor stadiums would have grass (retractable included), 53 man roster is eligible to play, 3 QBs per roster is required, conduct video reviews as quickly as World Cup Soccer (ie sky judge), the NFL will contribute to any renovations/new stadiums using influx of gambling dollars, etc. What else did I miss?

    Roger, I’m coming for your job.

  16. So instead of adding a (54th exempt roster spot) for a 3rd qb, the cheap SOBs keep the roster at 53.

    Is this now a 47th active player (break glass in emergency) on gameday ? I didnt see it in the article….thanks.

  17. Just wait until the 3rd QB gets ejected/hurt will there a 4th QB roster rule change….the saga continues

  18. Some teams cannot even trot 1 good QB out on the field. Why carry 3?

  19. This is great! Now the Eagles can knock-out yet another QB when they play the 49ers this season.

  20. The funny thing is that people cry all the time about the fact that there aren’t even 32 true NFL-quality quarterbacks in the League. Now they want rule changes that assume that there not only *64* legit QBs able to be fielded but another 32 who could fill in and make a conference championship game competitive.

    Face facts people, if this rule had been in place last year it’s not only almost certain that the NFCG would’ve ended up with the same result, but very likely the play of the game would’ve been the same, too.

  21. What kind of QBs will be left for the XFL and USFL after this rule change?

  22. Everyone here knows that the actual NFL “roster” size is only 46 players, right?

    The league allows a team to keep up to 53 players, so they’re not signed off the street and out of shape or don’t know the playbook. But that doesn’t change the fact the rulebook that says a team is 46 players and allowed 7 alternatives…

  23. People in this country are so naïve, they hear “emergency” and surrender their rights for lies.

  24. Need special diva rule where funds are kept aside for those that refuse to play due to contract dissatisfaction.

  25. Yeah Jamie,
    Dying to see you invent the magic technology that causes grass to grow indoors.

  26. Why not switch to a 54 man roster and designate one slot as a 3rd QB ?
    Having a slot for a 3rd QB would allow guys who need a few years holding the clipboard to learn and grow and would be good overall for the league which is always short of good QBs.

  27. “Make it 53 plus an emergency QB. Easiest thing ever.”


    I concur!

  28. Wouldn’t have changed a damn thing in the 49ers game.

    Jimmy wasn’t going to play and the 49ers weren’t going k
    To put a 4th qb on their 53 man roster.

    Simple solution. Allow teams to carry a 3rd or 4th qb via practice squad. They dress every game and go in if the active qbs go out.

  29. A better union than the NFLPA would’ve negotiated the point that all of the 53-man roster should be active, especially since injured reserve is no longer automatically a full season designation. By denying players bonus checks for being on the game squad, owners save a little money that would mostly go to the low-paid backups and special teamers who tend to have short careers. If teams are too foolish to recognize that QBs are too important and too frequently injured to not keep three on the 53-man roster, that’s entirely on them.

  30. Seeing how effective the 49ers QB2 was, I can’t even imagine whatever a QB3 would have brought to the table.

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