The NFL brought back the emergency quarterback rule this week, with specific restrictions that could make it something other than a no-brainer for NFL teams to use.
On Thursday, Broncos coach Sean Payton explained that, given the restrictions on its use, not every team will take advantage of the new third quarterback rule.
“If you carry three on your 53[-man roster], you get a [third on] game day,” Payton told reporters. “Let’s say what happened to San Francisco was a once in every seven year occurrence. Each team will then have to decide if they want to continue to have two and get an additional player other than a quarterback on their 53. Everyone has three in the building — a lot of times on the practice squad. I think team-by-team, it will vary.”
It’s a key point. To have an emergency quarterback on game days, teams need to devote a spot on the 53-man roster to that third quarterback. Will teams that currently carry two quarterbacks give up a player at another position in order to have a third quarterback?
Although it’s hardly ideal to see a team lose both quarterbacks and to have literally none during a game, most coaches would say that, if in a given game the third quarterback is suddenly thrown into the fire, the cause is already lost.
And while the 49ers got plenty of mileage from their QB3 as of Week One, Brock Purdy wasn’t third on the depth chart when he was pressed into service. The idea of the break-glass option having to play when two others have been the focal point for preparation doesn’t bode well for the team that loses the starter and backup in the same game.
Then there’s the restriction on the use of the third quarterback. He plays only if the other two are injured or ejected, and he must exit as soon as one of them is cleared to return. Why not just let the third quarterback play whenever the coaching staff decides to put him on the field?
Also, what if the third quarterback enters after the first two are injured and immediately catches fire? The second quarterback might end up having, for example, one of the longest concussion evaluations in league history while the third quarterback slices and dices a defense that wasn’t ready to face him.
It’s better to eliminate any temptation for chicanery. If a team is going to carry a third quarterback on the 53-man roster in order to use him on game day, don’t apply restrictions to his ability to enter the game.
With those restrictions, there’s a chance that plenty of teams will decide to continue to take their chances with only two quarterbacks on game day.