The NFC Championship game in 2022 had a serious problem. The San Francisco 49ers were one of the best underdog stories of the season. With Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, under center as a last resort, the 49ers ripped off six straight wins and were the hottest team in the NFC going into the playoffs.
The magic didn’t end there, either. Purdy guided the team to the NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles and one game from immortality. Then, the unthinkable happened.
Very early in the conference title game, the budding young superstar that was the very last pick in the April Draft injured his throwing elbow. It was bad enough that he had to exit the game, and journeyman backup Josh Johnson took his place.
Then the worst-case scenario for San Francisco and the league happened. Johnson was concussed, and the team was left with no viable quarterback. It was so desperate that Purdy was forced back into the game, even though he had completely torn his ulnar collateral ligament and could barely grip the football, no less throw it. Since current league rules have strict limits on active Sunday participants, teams do not carry a third quarterback, so the Niners were simply out of luck.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) May 23, 2023
Now, after the debacle in the Conference Championship game, the league has tweaked the rule book to make sure this scenario doesn’t play out in front of 50 million people again. The league has decided to allow a third quarterback to dress on game day as an emergency-only option.
According to the new league rule via Fox News:
“Each club may also designate one emergency third quarterback from its 53-play Active/Inactive List (i.e., elevated players are not eligible for designation) who will be eligible to be activated during the game, if the club’s first two quarterbacks on its game day Active List are not able to participate in the game due to injury or disqualification (activation cannot be a result of a head coach’s in-game decision to remove a player from the game due to performance or conduct).”
The rule also states that in the event one of the two quarterbacks is cleared by the medical staff following an injury check, “the emergency third quarterback must be removed from the game and is not permitted to continue to play quarterback or any other position, but is eligible to return to the game to play quarterback if another emergency third quarterback situation arises.”
It is a welcome adjustment that the league and the owners were quick to push through. The reality of the situation is when you get down to your emergency quarterback, you are probably doomed anyway because it is a player that isn’t even good enough to back up. Still, it beats putting a wounded, one-arm-quarterback in and risking permanently damaging a budding career.
Back in February, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spoke of the need to tweak the rules: “That’s the best way to initiate and the best way to make decisions is when you have examples at, I would say, very sensitive times,” he noted regarding rules that could impact playoff games. “And boy, we don’t want teams without quarterbacks in these games where 50 million people are watching.”
While not particularly eloquently said, Jones’ point remains. This simply can’t be allowed to happen again, and kudos to the NFL for being proactive in making sure it won’t.
"*" indicates required fields